Carpentersville Trustee Doug Marks got a new job in early January, but it conflicted with the 6:30 p.m. start time for village board meetings.
The village board amended the municipal code Jan. 17 to accommodate Marks' new work schedule, agreeing to start meetings a half-hour later.
Records show Marks had missed two meetings before the 7 p.m. start time was instituted. For an 8:15 p.m. special meeting that took place 11 days later to discuss the budget, Marks arrived 35 minutes late.
The freshman trustee, who frequently demands transparency from others, went on to miss five more board meetings after the time change -- including the last four.
There have been 33 board meetings since he was sworn in in May 2011; he's missed seven, or more than one-fifth of them.
"That's life," Marks said, when initially asked what kept him away so many times.
When pressed, Marks said family and career obligations have made him miss meetings. He's a software consultant in Northbrook, a 60- to 90-minute commute each way. He missed the July 24 meeting due to a child care issue, he said, and he's sure he missed at least one other meeting for being ill.
Not in board room
According to a Daily Herald attendance analysis of meeting minutes, Marks and veteran Trustee Paul Humpfer have missed the most meetings among their fellow trustees.
Like Marks, Humpfer has missed seven meetings since he started his third term in May 2011.
During the same time frame, Kay Teeter missed four meetings, Pat Schultz missed three, Brad McFeggan and Village President Ed Ritter missed two each, and Don Burroway had perfect attendance.
"I tried to set my schedule around those meetings, but I have the ability to do that because I'm retired," Burroway said.
Records show Humpfer arrived two hours late to a July 10 board meeting, which ended 46 minutes after his arrival. At a July 24 board meeting in which the village was expected to retake a video gambling vote and set up a program to deal with infested ash trees, trustees Marks, Humpfer and Teeter -- who was on a business trip -- did not attend.
That meant there were not enough votes to act on video gambling, which left representatives from eight businesses fuming. The matter was originally supposed to have been decided July 10, but Marks did not attend the meeting and Humpfer arrived after the vote, forcing the board to reschedule the vote for July 24. It finally took place Tuesday, and Marks missed that meeting as well.
"I think it's a crying shame that in the last three board meetings Carpentersville has had, they haven't had a full board," complained Chris McSwain, who owns Awesome Hand Gaming in Rolling Meadows.
Humpfer missed the July 24 board meeting and showed up late to the one on July 10 because he was running a state Little League tournament nearby at Randall Oaks.
Humpfer said the other six board meetings he missed were due to business trips.
"I do apologize to the residents for not being at those meetings, but again, this is not any of our full-time jobs ... and I have other community obligations that I participated in that are important to me that overlap with two meetings," he said.
Humpfer added that he did his own research on the video gambling issue, followed up with one of the business owners who attended the last meeting and felt prepared for the discussion.
"This doesn't harm anybody by delaying the vote for a month," Humpfer said.
Humpfer also is chairman of the audit and finance commission, which is responsible for developing the village's annual budget. Records show he hasn't missed a single commission meeting from May 2011 to May 2012, the most recent month minutes were available. Humpfer has been credited with helping to right the village's financial ship, and he pointed out that those commission meetings sometimes last for hours.
Trustees receive $6,000 a year to sit on the board, whether they attend meetings or not, while the village president makes $12,000 a year. They do not get extra money for commission work.
There is nothing in place that throws trustees off the board for missing a certain number of board meetings, but McFeggan and Burroway said they would support adding such a provision.
McFeggan would also support cutting trustee pay for every meeting missed.
"There's a responsibility to being a board member and there's understanding that every board member, typically, they have other jobs and stuff, but we know when the meetings are in advance and we should make every opportunity to make those meetings," McFeggan said. "I've stuck to that."
Ritter, the village president, is convinced trustees have valid reasons for missing meetings.
"If I thought that it was on purpose or that they were trying to duck their duties, I would be disappointed, but I don't think it's the case," Ritter said. "I think circumstances have gotten in the way of their village duties. I fully expect them to begin regularly attending again."
Teeter understands that while work sometimes gets in the way, there may come a time when trustees who repeatedly miss meetings have to ask themselves some tough questions about their service.
"If that's the way the job's going to be, then you have to decide if you can fulfill your commitment," Teeter said.
Marks and Humpfer ran together on the campaign promise to watch every tax dollar.
The pair fought water rate hikes and sparred with Village Manager J. Mark Rooney over expenses associated with the new public works facility. Marks also has repeatedly -- and strongly -- criticized Public Works Director Bob Cole and questioned other department heads about their expenses.
There is much more to being a trustee than attending meetings, Marks said. The most important parts of the job to him involve listening to constituents and making decisions with them in mind.
"I make $500 a month doing this," Marks said. "I spend half that just buying gas to look at things in town. I think the money that I get ... it's not that much, and I think I earn it."
But in McFeggan's view, board meetings are the most important part of the job.
"That's where the big decisions are made," he said. "If you're not able to make it to the meetings, what good of a voice are you?"