Staggered between two empty chairs, three Ottawa Recreation Commission board members discussed during their Dec. 12 meeting a potential attendance policy for the five-member group.

Vice-chair Tony De La Torre, who facilitated the meeting in lieu of chairman Dan Stepp, conferred with fellow board members regarding the appropriate steps to ensure full participation at the group’s monthly meetings.  

“I’d like to see a policy on [attendance], because I think it’s come up two or three times,” De La Torre said during the meeting. “We need to be [at the meetings] because the staff reports to us, they expect our input every month, and if we’re not there, we can’t give them the input.”

Since July 2010, the ORC board has had 40 meetings, according to data provided from the board’s secretary. During that time, board member Jeff Curry, who also is Franklin County Sheriff, has missed 10 meetings, while Stepp has missed seven. In the same period, De La Torre missed three meetings, and Spencer was absent from none. Joe Geodert, who was appointed to the board in April, has missed one meeting since joining the group, according to the ORC’s report. 

Curry, who said he was obligated to attend a mandatory sheriff’s training course during the board’s last two meetings, said he would be willing to consider an attendance policy for the board. 

“I think that it’s definitely something that should be looked into and discussed, and I would agree with whatever the consensus of the board is,” Curry said. “It’s always a challenge with difficult community boards and organizations — especially if you have community leaders on those boards — to balance all the responsibilities. ... The last two meetings, unfortunately, I was at training that was required by Kansas statute that I attend, so therefore I had no choice.”

Drafting a policy, however, would take more than a motion from the board itself, Richard Nienstedt, Ottawa city manager, said. First, the board would need to seek approval for the policy through the Ottawa City Commission, Nienstedt said, followed by a nod from the Ottawa school board. If successfully passed by those bodies, Nienstedt added, the board could then vote on the policy. 

In his eight months on the board, Goedert said he wasn’t aware of any poor attendance by board members. In fact, Goedert said, he was impressed by the board’s recent participation in an October retreat, which took several hours of their time. 

“I think attendance has been pretty good,” Goedert said. “It’s a volunteer position, so you’ve got to have some flexibility with your board members.”

While no specifics of the potential policy were discussed, De La Torre emphasized that the policy idea was not personal, but rather a measure to ensure streamlined progress for the organization as well as local residents. If all board members aren’t present to discuss an important issue, De La Torre said, it can cause the group to table an issue, which can delay progress. 

“We need to conduct business on a monthly basis, and we can’t have a discussion or have input for the staff if we’re not there,” De La Torre said. “It’s important for us to be there.”