Easthampton councilor Meunier has missed half of the council’s meetings since being sworn in last July

By EMILY THURLOW

Staff Writer

Published: 03-25-2023 8:00 PM

EASTHAMPTON — In nearly nine months since being sworn in as a city councilor, David Meunier has missed eight of 16 council meetings. No other councilor has missed more than two in that timeframe.

The at-large councilor has missed four of the council’s six meetings this year, and four over six months in 2022, according to records in the city clerk’s office.

Meunier did not respond to an email and a message via his council Facebook page, or a phone message requesting comment on Wednesday and Thursday. City staff and councilors said this week that Meunier remains a council member.

While his absence hasn’t complicated any votes at the full council meetings, it has impacted the Appointment Committee, of which Meunier is a member, according to City Council President Homar Gomez.

“We have had to reschedule some of the Appointment Committee meetings because of the absence of a councilor,” Gomez said.

The Appointment Committee’s charge is to review and vet all of the appointments of people to boards and committees recommended by Mayor Nicole LaChapelle, said At-Large Councilor Brad Riley, who is chairperson of that council subcommittee. He noted that the committee’s work affects some significant portions of the city, such as the Board of Health and the Planning Board.

If the committee does not act on the mayoral appointments, they will just be eventually approved.

“The Appointment Committee is incredibly important to the city’s business,” Riley said. “Long-term implications are at play here.”

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Meunier also serves as clerk on the council’s Public Safety Committee. At-Large Councilor Owen Zaret, who is chairperson of that committee, said that Meunier has performed his duties as a clerk and provided minutes.

“My understanding is that his job in HVAC poses the risk of being called in to emergencies, especially this time of year. I appreciate his dedication to his job,” Zaret said in an emailed statement. “Obviously when there are a finite number of nine councilors on the council, the absence of a single person can affect our votes, and especially a councilor’s ability to be an effective voice for their constituents.”

Zaret added that he and his fellow colleagues should be available to offer support if a councilor is facing any challenges.

“I’m available to problem-solve with councilor Meunier around his scheduling conflicts, and have reached out previously to be a resource,” he said.

As of now, Gomez is serving as an alternate on the Public Safety Committee and is appointing At-Large Councilor Koni Denham as an alternate on the Appointment Committee as a way to keep subcommittee business moving. Alternate members have the ability to vote in the event that one of the other three members are absent.

Gomez said he intends to review the situation further in the future, if necessary.

While the city has a policy concerning attendance for those that are appointed to boards or committees, one does not exist for those to elected positions.

Council members are paid a stipend of $4,000 per fiscal year for the position. Following a vote this past year, members of the council will receive $6,000 per fiscal year starting January 2024.

“It is important to recognize that when we decide to run for an elected position, it comes with many responsibilities, and our constituents deserve commitment from us. Our lives change every day for multiple reasons and are up to us to evaluate if what we are doing is best for our constituents,” Gomez said. “We have nine members at our council, and each individual is important to keep our city moving forward. It is concerning when members of the council don’t take this job seriously.”

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.]]>