After disappearing from public view for months, Fair Haven Alderman Gabe Santiago ended up with a 32 percent attendance rate at City Hall for the year. Meanwhile, nine of his colleagues on the Board of Aldermen posted perfect records.
Those facts emerge from an examination of aldermanic attendance records at the close of the first year of the current board’s two-year term.
Records show Santiago (pictured) has been an alderman in name only for most of 2012. He’s missed more than two-thirds of meetings of the full Board of Aldermen and nearly three-quarters of his assigned committee meetings. He hasn’t been seen in City Hall since July. He has not been responding to questions from the public or offering any indication if, or when, he will resign his 14th Ward seat in Fair Haven.
Santiago’s truancy makes him an exception among his colleagues on the Board of Alderman, most of whom showed up for work practically all the time.
The majority of the city’s 30 aldermen have perfect or near-perfect attendance records for meetings of the full board in 2012. Santiago has made it to only seven of the year’s 22 meetings, and none since July.
Santiago did not respond to repeated calls for comment for this story. His absenteeism has been a problem since at least July 2, the last time he showed up for a board meeting.
Tatiana Davila, who lives on Atwater Street, has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Santiago, should he step down.
Head Of The Class
Click here to download a spreadsheet detailing aldermanic attendance at full board meetings in 2012.
Nine aldermen posted perfect full-board attendance records for the year: Frank Douglass, Andrea Jackson-Brooks, Jorge Perez, Doug Hausladen, Michael Smart, Jessica Holmes, Justin Elicker, Barbara Constantinople, and Al Paolillo.
Ten more missed only one meeting. Everyone else had at least 82 percent attendance, with the exception of Aldermen Santiago, Sergio Rodriguez (55 percent) and Alfreda Edwards (59 percent).
Rodriguez was laid up by two major surgeries this year: a full knee replacement and open heart surgery. Edwards has been dealing with a family illness. Rodriguez and Edwards have missed more than half their committee meetings.
Board President Pro Tempore Jackie James of the Hill made it to all but four full-board meetings despite health problems and surgery. She said she was supposed to be on complete bed-rest between May and September, and had to miss three meetings during that period.
At committee meetings, four aldermen have had perfect attendance: Jorge Perez, Michael Smart, Justin Elicker (who is on three committees), and Migdalia Castro. Eight others have attendance rates above 90 percent. Click here to see committee meeting attendance rates for all 30 aldermen.
Overall, aldermanic attendance improved slightly in 2012 compared to 2010, the first year of the term served by the previous Board of Aldermen. Click here to download a spreadsheet of attendance rates from 2010 and the first part of 2011.
It’s been a particularly good year for attendance, said board President Perez. “There’s a lot of new people who are eager to participate and be a part of the process.”
Bottom Of The Barrel
Alderman Santiago, a first-termer, is apparently not a part of that group. He’s made it to only seven of 22 full-board meetings, and to only of the four meetings held by the two committees of which he’s a member. Click here to see committee assignments.
Rafael Ramos, Democratic committee co-chair in Santiago’s ward, said people in the neighborhood are disappointed and frustrated by their lack of representation.
He said he hasn’t been able to reach Santiago to see why he’s not showing up.
“It’s a mystery. I don’t know,” Ramos said. “Everyone’s confused. We thought Gabe was going to be in for the long haul. It seems like in the first three months he decided he didn’t want to do it. Everyone’s confused and frustrated.”
Ramos said neighbors have a number of issues they would like to work on—like traffic-calming and the development of River Street—but no one to advocate for them.
“We have no representation right now,” he said. “Gabe never happened.”
Ramos said others in the neighborhood are interested in serving as alderman in Santiago’s place if he doesn’t want his seat. But no one can take the role until he steps down.
Or unless he’s removed. Several city laws exist which could be used to remove a sitting aldermen; they’ve never been tested for that purpose.
Section 190 of the city charter empowers the mayor to remove an “officer of the city” if he is “unfaithful to the duties of his office.” That process involves a hearing in which the officer would have a chance to make his case.
Section 39 of the charter empowers the Board of Aldermen to “expel a member for due cause” by a three-fourths majority vote, or 23 aldermen. “Due cause” is not defined.
Section 211 of the charter and Section 12 5/8-8 of the Code of Ordinances state that an alderman may be removed from office for a breach of the code of ethics. Absenteeism is not mentioned in the code of ethics, but the list can be amended by the Board of Aldermen.
While these laws may allow the mayor or aldermen to remove Santiago from office, Board of Aldermen President Jorge Perez said he doesn’t think that will be necessary.
“I would not be surprised if sometime in the beginning of January he stepped down,” Perez said.