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Roll call: City councillor attendance dips in 2024

A tally of who missed Adelaide City Council meetings and how often has prompted questions about whether frequently absent councillors should face consequences.

Jul 10, 2024, updated Jul 10, 2024
A councillor has been accused of "disrespectful" behaviour towards some councillors after criticising the structure and payment of committee chairs. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

A councillor has been accused of "disrespectful" behaviour towards some councillors after criticising the structure and payment of committee chairs. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

A report of city council attendance between November 2023 and June 2024 reveals eight councillors missed meetings during that time, including two who didn’t send apologies or seek official leave.

The report of attendance over seven months was requested by Councillor Phillip Martin.

Martin originally requested attendance for the past six months as of May this year, but then withdrew the question and submitted it again in June, leading to the date range. Martin missed four meetings during this period with leave or apologies sent.

“With councillors attending, in some cases, less of 50 per cent of meetings, is there any provision in the Local Government Act that deals with continuing neglect of the obligation to attend meetings?” Martin asked at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

Councillor Henry Davis, who’s running for Liberal preselection in the federal seat of Mayo, is the only councillor who has repeatedly missed meetings with no explanation within this period.

Councillor Simon Hou had one absence recorded in June in which he did not provide an apology.

Between November 2023 and June 2024, Davis missed six out of 16 council meetings. Of these, he had sent apologies for two, had been granted leave for one, missed two without explanation and left one meeting after it started and did not return.

“Absences” are recorded when a councillor has not been granted leave or sent their apologies ahead of time advising the council that they will miss a meeting. If a councillor leaves a meeting for more than 30 minutes and does not return, this is recorded.

Davis told InDaily the date range of this report was very specific and therefore misleading and that a better reflection of his attendance would span the entire financial year 2023-24.

According to the monthly attendance reports published with council agendas, Davis attended 33 of 39 total council and committee meetings held between June and November 2023.

Davis said due to work and family commitments, some councillors had good reasons for missing meetings. He also noted his absences in January due to taking a holiday for the first time in years.

“The question really is, do we want people who are retired to be in council or do we want people who are from diverse backgrounds?” he said.

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“Do we want to accept that people might have children and other responsibilities outside of council and that they can still do their job, and attacking them over that I think is poor form.”

The council provides taxi services and complimentary childcare to support councillor attendance at meetings among caring and work commitments.

Acting CEO Michael Sedgman said that if a councillor did not attend three council meetings consecutively without requesting leave, it was “a matter of significance”, but leaving meetings early wasn’t covered by local government regulations.

Other than Davis, three other councillors left meetings early, with Arman Abrahimzadeh leaving four of 16 council meetings early, and Janet Giles and Simon Hou each leaving one meeting early.

Martin told InDaily he believed a number of his colleagues along with himself would support a review of the council’s behavioural support policy to address attendance and other matters.

“I’m hoping that we will see some improvement in attendance,” he said.

Within the November to June period there were 33 core committee meetings. Attendance at committee meetings is not addressed by the Local Government Act, but is included in the Council’s Code of Practice for meeting procedures.

The Code of Practice states “apologies for non-attendance at a Council or Council Committee meeting should be forwarded to the Chief Executive Officer before the scheduled start time of the meeting”.

Of the 33 committee meetings, Councillor Jing Li missed 20, the most of any councillor, but he had been granted leave or sent his apologies for every instance.

Davis missed a total of 17 committee meetings; two of which he sent in apologies for, and two that he left early.

Li, who is involved in a court case brought by former South Ward councillor Alexander Hyde regarding the last council election, has missed five of the 16 council meetings, sending apologies or being granted leave for each instance.

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