By Sam Elliott
Term limits, attendance rules and the status of standing committees were among the topics covered during a special meeting of the Carmel/Clay Board of Parks and Recreation on July 28 to discuss its bylaws.
Board members were split on whether or not to implement term limits, one of the topics that led to a review of the bylaws.
“I don’t think anybody should be in an office for an extended period of time,” board member Richard Leirer said.
Board member Jim Garretson agreed, proposing limits such as no officer should serve more than three years in a four-year span or four years within six years, but the board wasn’t unanimous and no final decision was reached.
“In principle, term limits are extremely important in certain instances,” board member Wendy Franklin said. “In practicality, you need more discussion to figure out how that looks with the way people go on and off of this particular board.”
The board’s vice president feared term limits could hamper the Park Board’s effectiveness unnecessarily.
“If you have somebody like Jim, who’s president, he has a tremendous amount of experience to lead us as a board,” Taylor said. “If you limit that and there are a bunch of new people appointed to the Parks Board, you’re going to lose all that experience and history and guidance that was provided if we put an arbitrary term limit in.”
Another proposed bylaw debated involved setting attendance standards, specifically stating, as proposed, that members with less than 75 percent attendance the preceding year would not be eligible to serve as an officer unless the Park Board agreed unanimously to allow it.
Setting the cutoff at 60 percent or two-thirds was also discussed, but some board members were wary of using the bylaws to set a tone for attendance.
Ultimately, the Board voted that an attendance policy should be in the bylaws, but the specifics have yet to be set.
“We see this Park Board as important, so anyone who is elected as an officer should take it seriously enough to be able to attend the meetings,” Franklin said. “If you can’t attend the meetings, you shouldn’t be an officer. It’s questionable that you should even be on the Board.”
Certain duties of the board president, what defines an eligible member when it comes to filling officer vacancies and naming the treasurer to all committees with financial implications were among the additional bylaw topics discussed and agreed upon Tuesday.
Board members also debated the necessity of standing committees within the Parks Board, with some officials seeing no point in continuing them if they weren’t meeting. Others saw no harm in keeping them sustained and serving as a channel for relaying information.
The alternative to standing committees would be to have the board or its president establish committees as needed.
After more than two hours of combing through the language of new and revised bylaws, vice president Rich Taylor moved to adjourn and continue the talks following the board’s next regular meeting on Aug. 11. Action and full approval on the bylaw changes could take place at that regular meeting, too.
The board’s bylaws, first established in 2003, were last amended in 2011.
“Bylaws are enacted to help a body govern itself in addition to its constitution,” said Deb Gresham, attorney for the board. “The Park Board’s constitution is essentially the inter-local agreement and then any state law that applies in addition to it.”
The Park Board isn’t legally required to have bylaws — and didn’t from 1991 to 2003 — but has conducted itself according to the bylaws’ guidelines and has made changes since their inception depending on the board’s activities or needs.
“The creation of these bylaws was rooted, I think, in the need for organizing board action and to spread the work among the different board members based on their interests and strengths and what we needed at the time,” Gresham said.