One reason I went to the PMUA's two meetings Tuesday was to witness the sight of two new commissioners in place after many months of wrangling over filling vacancies on the authority's board.
Of the two, only Cecil Sanders was there, joining Chairman Harold Mitchell and commissioners Alex Toliver and Carol Brokaw. Late in the regular PMUA meeting that followed the rate hearing, it came out in the wash that newly-appointed Commissioner Malcolm Dunn had some sort of a conflict with the meeting date. The board was discussing the annual calendar for 2012 and was about to adopt one with committee meetings on Thursdays and regular monthly meetings on Tuesdays.
After someone alluded to the conflict, the board held off on setting the calendar, even though Executive Director Duane Young had just commented that Thursdays and Tuesdays had worked fine in the past.
My reaction was how could someone get so far into the process without knowing when the body normally meets? That was one of the points of the Civic Responsibility Act's provision to set forth details such as the meeting date for a given board or commission so that an applicant could decide whether to apply. It is true that the PMUA has in the past adopted an annual calendar and then seemingly every month put in a legal notice rescheduling it, but with its new emphasis on transparency, one hoped it would become less of a moving target.
This glitch left me thinking: Would the PMUA or any other board or commission really change its normal meeting day to accommodate a new appointee? The PMUA has five commissioners and two alternates, plus staff including an attorney, on its roster. Other boards have seven or more members, plus staff. And what about the public? People complained when the PMUA moved up its meeting time to 6 p.m., effectively shutting out a lot of commuters who might want to attend.
There is a precedent, however, for changing an important meeting schedule for the ostensible benefit of an individual. In early 2006, the City Council made its disastrous change from meeting on Mondays to a Monday-Wednesday staggered schedule that needed its own place on the refrigerator for citizens to remember when the governing body was meeting. (Details here.) It was all about a department head who was council president in another municipality and needed to be there on the second Monday of each month.
It is up to the PMUA board of commissioners to deal with their own calendar for 2012, but again it's too bad a significant conflict for one individual was not made clear up front. The January meeting date is already up on the PMUA web site and so far, it's a Tuesday - or will it be?