According to Section 22 of the Texas State Statutes for Local Government Code, if a city council member is absent “for three regular consecutive meetings, the member’s office is considered vacant unless the member is sick or has first obtained a leave of absence at a regular meeting.”
John Kroll, the council member representing Dripping Springs Place 4, missed three consecutive council meetings in April and May of this year, on April 16, May 14 and May 21, according to recorded city minutes of those meetings.
Mayor Pro Tem Bill Foulds said the council was aware that Kroll would miss the meetings in question due to his job taking him out of town.
Both Foulds and Mayor Todd Purcell said that they had not realized that Purcell’s absences equaled three consecutive meetings and also had been unaware of the Texas statute outlining the rule pertaining to Kroll’s attendance.
“For the record, I didn’t know this existed,” Foulds said.
Purcell said he was only clued in that there might be a problem when another council member, Taline Manassian, approached him about receiving a formal excuse for a potential third consecutive absence from council. Manassian ultimately did not miss a third consecutive meeting.
“I didn’t know that was an issue until Taline asked for an excuse,” Purcell said.
Kroll, too, said he had not been aware of the rule.
“I didn’t read my state statute book as closely as I should have,” he said.
Since the vacancy of Place 4’s seat was formally created after Kroll’s May 21 absence, the council has held 13 regular meetings, all but one of which Kroll is on record as attending. According to Assistant City Attorney Laura Mueller, the votes and motions Kroll has made at those meetings remain valid.
“When there’s a vacancy created on a government entity such as a city, the person who last held that position remains as a holdover, [according] to the Texas Constitution, until someone new is appointed to that position,” Mueller said, prior to the vote to reappoint Kroll. “At this point, you remain a full member of the city council, but your seat is vacant.”
State statute dictates that the city council may choose to reappoint the former seatholder in such cases or may choose to appoint someone else to the position. A city council may also call for a special election to fill the seat.
Had the city not chosen to reappoint Kroll at the December meeting, the council would have had license to appoint any qualifying person to the Place 4 seat prior to the upcoming May election.
Kroll did not vote on the motion that reappointed him to the council, but he did vote on all other items presented at the meeting, including some that came prior to his reappointment.