After half a term, attendance records show most Stratford District councillors have missed between one and four council meetings.

However, councillor Graham Kelly has been absent from 10 out of the 27 meetings he was required to attend.

The rest of the councillors were required to attend 37 meetings during the same time.

The difference in the number of meetings to which attendance is required was due to Cr Kelly having been suspended from his role on the executive committee as well as the policy and services committee in May last year for the remainder of the current three-year term.

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He was found to have breached the Stratford District Council's code of conduct following multiple complaints from applicants during the recruitment process for the chief executive role in 2017.

Cr Kelly was contacted by the Stratford Press for comment about his attendance but the call was disconnected both times and he did not respond to emails.

Mayor Volzke says the sanction meant Cr Kelly could not vote at policy and services committee meetings but he was still entitled to attend.

The mayor confirmed Cr Kelly still received full remuneration for his position.

"Even if he is no longer a member of the policy and services committee — which is the main working committee of council — he is entitled to attend but chooses not to.

Councillors are elected by the community at large and I believe there is an expectation councillors will fulfil their duties by attending all council meetings."

Before the suspension, Cr Kelly attended three of the seven policy and services committee meetings or hearings. After the suspension, he attended two of the 10 policy and services committee meetings or hearings.

Top attenders were councillors Grant Boyde and Peter Dalziel, with 100 per cent attendance. Cr Boyde says he believed it was important to show up.

Cr Dalziel says he has missed a couple of meetings since February 27, but describes it as "a rare occurrence".

"You can't make well informed decisions unless you have had all the information in front of you to make decisions. Given we are elected members it is important to attend the meetings, especially the workshops where a lot of the real work is done," he says.

Councillors Gloria Webby, Alan Jamieson and John Sandford have all missed one meeting, Cr Webby says her absence was due to a family commitment while Cr Sandford says his was due to ill health.

Cr Sandford says the number of meetings doesn't take into consideration the hours put into the job — reading documents and attending workshops, being out in the community and standing on other committees. He says it's important every councillor attends every meeting and workshop possible.

Deputy mayor Alan Jamieson says meeting attendance was just one measure of councillor performance. Other important things for councillors included going to workshops, availability, preparation for meetings, reading agendas and representing council at community events and meetings outside the region.

"Collectively council works very hard to represent ratepayers."

Councillors Jono Erwood and Keryn Walsh have missed two meetings and councillors Rick Coplestone and Kelvin Squire have missed four.

Cr Erwood says one was due to bereavement and the other was a day when work commitments meant he couldn't make the public forum preceding the council meeting.
"I was present for the council meeting however."

Cr Squire says three of the four meetings he missed were held on the same day, meaning he was only away from council for two days. One was for a bereavement and the other an approved holiday. He is serving his fourth term and says he is happy with his attendance, which he rated as high over the last 10 years.

The only meeting Mayor Neil Volzke missed was when he was at a Local Government Conference which clashed with the meeting date. The same conference was attended by Keryn Walsh and accounted for one of her absences.

Mr Volzke says he plans to introduce a councillor attendance register in all future council agendas. Such a measure is good practice for public organisations, he says.

"I just think it's good to know that we are fulfilling our obligations as elected officials."

He understands there are special circumstances such as bereavement and sickness when councillors needed time off but questions the legitimacy of taking lengthy holidays outside of the official summer break period.

He says he feels attendance by councillors is generally good.

All Stratford district councillors are paid $17,179 per year, apart from John Sandford and Grant Boyde. These two councillors receive extra remuneration for their roles on other committees.

For Mr Sandford, who is chairman of the NZ Rural Sport and Travel Fund committee, this means a final total of $17,942 while for Mr Boyde, who is the Council representative on the Taranaki Regional Council Policy and Planning Committee, it means a total of $19,722.

The mayor's remuneration is $70,497 and the deputy mayor's $24,050.

Attendance figures

The Stratford Press requested the attendance figures from Stratford District Council.

The figures quoted are based on attendance from the start of the three year term, in October 2016 through to February 27, 2018.

In that time, there were two extraordinary meetings, 13 ordinary meetings, five public forums, 14 policy and services meetings and three hearings. In some cases, two or more meetings took place on the same day.

While hearings are open to the public, they come under the Policy and Services Committee and therefore only members of the Policy and Services Committee are required to attend.

All councillors except councillor Kelly are members of the Policy and Services Committee.
Councillors also attend workshops on a range of topics, however these are not public meetings and as such attendance has not been recorded.