DES MOINES, Iowa — Indira Sheumaker hasn’t been seen at a Des Moines City Council meeting since early March, but her presence was still being felt on Monday.
The Council–sans Sheumaker, who resigned last month, approved an ordinance that would require mayors and council members to attend meetings or risk sanctions, which could lead to written warnings and, ultimately, losing some of their pay.
“This policy will help,” said Ward 4 Councilman, Joe Gatto. “It will give us strength in the language that if something like this would happen again, we could take some action.”
Though Sheumaker missed nearly 20 meetings and offered no explanations, she never missed a paycheck and the Council could do little about it.
“It was something no one had ever seen before,” said Councilwoman-At-Large Connie Boesen. “There was almost nothing we could do. Legal believes this is the best way for us to prevent that from happening again.”
The mayor and council members miss meetings from time to time, and under the new ordinance, there would be no sanctions for those who are absent due to business, medical, or personal reasons — provided they’ve notified the Council of their situation.
“There’s some pad in there for things that do come up,” said Mayor Frank Cownie.
Most on the council believe that Sheumaker’s situation was isolated, but this ordinance would provide both warning to members and leverage against those who might ignore those warnings.
“Typically during an election,” said Gatto, “you work so hard to get elected that when you get elected, you just really want to serve your community — you want to be a part of your community and you want to do your job. So I’m pretty confident it’s not going to happen again.”