City council president Julio Tavarez apologized to residents on Tuesday evening for his poor meeting attendance.
“I’d like to apologize to my voters, my constituents, and the city of Paterson,” said Tavarez, during an attendance presentation before the council. He said when he was campaigning for re-election he did not tell voters that he would be missing so many meetings.
Tavarez’s presentation included an analysis of council members’ attendance from July 2005 to May 2015. His analysis showed during his first-term on the council, Tavarez had nearly perfect attendance. His attendance to regular meetings was above 90-percent; however, that was not to last.
In subsequent years, beginning in 2012 his attendance suffered. His attendance rate stood at 86-percent in 2012; 71-percent in 2013; 85-percent in 2014; and so far this year his attendance has hit a new low of 67-percent.
Much of those absences had to do with a master’s of business administration degree he was pursuing at the time. He said the master’s program was difficult and left him “exhausted” which resulted in poor attendance.
Tavarez’s presentation was not solely an exercise to justify or explain away the large number of meetings he missed in the past years, but to highlight his accomplishments as council president this past year in improving the council’s collective attendance.
“The attendance rate for Tavarez is the highest in the last 10 years, 4.5-percent above average,” he said. “I was able to improve the attendance rate across the city council.”
The body’s average attendance, said Tavarez, is 88-percent. Under his presidency that number climbed by 4.5-percent to 92-percent, according to his analysis. He credited efficient scheduling and conduct of meeting that led to the higher than average attendance.
Tavarez said he packed Tuesdays’ council agendas so that special meetings were rendered unnecessary. His analysis found special meeting attendance rate was much lower than that of regular meetings.
“Colorful,” “pretty,” and “misleading” is how William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman, described Tavarez’s presentation. McKoy said the council president’s presentation was an attempt to show that he had “decent” attendance in relative terms.
“I never said my attendance rate was good,” responded Tavarez. “I found my attendance was horrible. I said my attendance was not good.”
The 3rd Ward councilman thought the 25-minute presentation was a waste of time. “For the amount of time we spent doing this, we could really have done some productive things,” he said.
Tavarez received unwanted media attention in 2013 for missing 38 out of 72 meetings that year that included special and workshop sessions. “I thought I was being targeted at that point in time,” he said.
The following year, in 2014, his colleagues voted him in as the council president. Next week, the council will decide on a new president. Tavarez, who was censured earlier in the year through a no-confidence vote for making perceived racially insensitive remarks on a radio program while attempting to promote diversity at the city clerk’s office by appointing a Hispanic deputy clerk, is not likely to secure a new lease on the presidency, according to insiders.
Tavarez’s report lists Alex Mendez, Andre Sayegh, Maritza Davila, and McKoy as having missed zero regular meetings this year. Former 4th Ward councilwoman Vera Ames-Garnes is listed as having the poorest attendance record in the past decade.
Ames-Garnes attendance rate was under 82-percent from 2006 to 2012, according to the analysis report. Her regular meeting attendance rate hit a new low in 2011 at 43-percent.
“That’s all we wanted,” McKoy said about Tavarez’s apology. He said that would have been sufficient rather than a lengthy presentation.