County Council Attendance Issue Aired

Laurens County Councilman Keith Tollison was present at last night’s Laurens County Council Meeting, after missing several consecutive meetings over recent months. He distributed a letter last night that he had submitted to Chairman Joe Wood, regarding his absences.

His absences have been the point of some criticism. On the agenda to address that concern last night was Brenda Stewart, requesting a consideration of amending county council policy and procedures to include attendance requirements and adjusting compensation for prolonged absences such as Tollison’s. Ms. Stewart said she had never met Tollison and her concern was not personal; she said she felt this type of absence is a problem for the county. She suggested guidelines such as limiting excused absences, adjusting pay for those absences, and other ways such as skype to stay in touch during meetings.

Tollison tried to answer these objections in his letter, stating “My absence has been due to scheduling conflicts with my current career position, I had hoped when I took this new position I could work my schedule quickly enough to only miss a couple of meetings. Unfortunately this has not happened yet.” Tollison went on to say “I want everyone to know that while I am not physically able to be at each meeting, I have continued to serve and represent the constituents of my elected district by emails, text and telephone while out of state. I have also been making personal, as well as office visits with staff and other council members while in town.

His letter went on to explain that he has made the decision to continue his service to council, and that although he may miss more meetings, he has expectations for a schedule change in work to allow his return him to regular attendance. He also stated that the cost to the county for a special election to replace him could be as much as $14,000.00. Noting that money is not in the budget, he added that only a small amount of time to campaign and then whoever won the special election to complete his current term would have to run for re-election in less than a year.

No action was taken on the absentee issue last night and Councilman Tollison will remain in office. Laurens Council Chairman Joe Wood said that council was accepting Ms. Stewart’s ideas as information.