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Mayor Leyens has missed 30% of board meetings over two months

[8/17/03]Mayor Laurence Leyens has missed about 30 percent of the city board meetings in the past two months, but says he is comfortable with decisions made by the city’s two aldermen.

On Thursday, Leyens and South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman were not present for an 8 a.m. board meeting. North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young, along with eight city employees, waited for about half an hour before declaring the absence of a quorum, meaning there were not enough board members to have the meeting, and rescheduling it for later that day.

Later that day, Leyens said it was a miscommunication and that he had been at another meeting in another part of town. Beauman had been at a dentist appointment.

“It’s always a balancing act to lead the community,” Leyens said.

Since June 1, Leyens has missed eight of 26 scheduled city board meetings. He said last month that the board will be meeting more often to speed up government and in the last two months, there have been 10 special-called meetings.

Of the meetings Leyens missed, he was on vacation for three, out of town on other business for three and had a doctor’s appointment for another.

“That’s why we have a mayor pro-tem,” said Leyens referring to Young who presides over the meetings in the mayor’s absence.

“The only regret I have is missing the bond issue meeting,” he said.

Leyens, who is about half-way through his four-year term, was given the nickname “Taz” in the first month of his administration because of his constant energy and enthusiasm. During the first year, he rarely missed a meeting or public engagement.

Leyens admits that the job has been more frustrating than what he had expected when he campaigned in 2001.

“I hate government,” he said. “Everyday I want to sue myself.”

As mayor, his duties include being the chief financial officer of the city, police commissioner and presiding over the city board meetings. There are four scheduled regularly each month, on the first and third Mondays and on the 10th and 25th, and any number of meetings called by the board.

Any one member can also call a special meeting by giving three hours’ public notice.

“Our board works very closely together, and we have common goals and common visions,” Leyens said. “I’m comfortable with my board.”

During the first two years of his administration, the city borrowed $17.5 million for infrastructure improvements, recreation and started the downtown urban renewal project. The city also began reconstruction of downtown Washington Street, initiated a new garbage collection program and repaving of Porters Chapel Road.

Inside City Hall, there have been several reorganizations, most notably at the police department, and a merit-based pay system was started. Last year the board also voted pay raises for themselves

The mayor is now paid $73,500 annually.