Attendance at meetings is a sticking point among candidates running for three seats to represent DuPage County Board District 5 in the Nov. 6 election.
Democratic incumbent Tony Michelassi of Aurora, Republican incumbents James Healy and John Zediker of Naperville, and Republican newcomer Tonia Khouri of Aurora all agree near-perfect attendance should be required for all county board members.
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But Healy said Michelassi's absences have caused problems when his swing vote was needed on various issues, such as the 2010 approval for providing $250,000 for the DuPage Children's Museum in Naperville.
From January through September of last year, Michelassi attended roughly 61 percent of both committee and board meetings, while Healy attended roughly 82 percent and Zediker near 88 percent.
"Attendance is the most important thing, and we all know that's an issue in this campaign, and it's a big issue," Healy said. "If you're not doing your job in committee, you're not doing your job as a county board member."
Michelassi apologized for his record, saying he had some illnesses and conflicts with his school schedule, and promised to improve if re-elected. He also noted his record improved in 2012, and Zediker supported that claim.
"The bottom line is there is no excuse," Michelassi said.
But he also argued committee meetings, where issues facing the county are discussed in-depth, are spaced too close together.
Zediker agreed in part, saying most of his absences were due to such conflicts. But he also maintained his high attendance record proves timing is not an excuse.
"Attendance is what the voters elected you to do," he said. "The vast majority of meetings I missed were so I wouldn't break quorum (from one meeting to attend another)."
Khouri said if elected she would aim to have "at least a 90 percent" attendance rating, adding anything less is "irresponsible."
She also said she has attended the majority of both board and committee meeting in the past nine months.
"Attendance demonstrates your commitment to the board and how much you really care," she said. "I think it's important to know what's going on in every committee, not just committees you're in charge of."
Michelassi said he ran a cost-benefit analysis to see if it was better to hold night meetings for the development committee, which he chairs. He also argued the public could attend more committee meetings if some were held at night. Many committee meetings remain on weekday mornings, however.
The term for the District 5 county board seat will be either two or four years.
That's because once every 10 years, the county redraws district boundaries based on the latest U.S. Census results. Next, the county board will hold a lottery to determine which seats will start with 4-year terms, and which will have 2-year terms.
District 5 includes parts of Aurora, Lisle, Naperville, Warrenville and Woodridge.