Wednesday evening’s scheduled meeting of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board lasted 15 minutes before Vice President LaTrisha Vetaw announced it was canceled.
It was the second time this year that a meeting of the leaders of the city’s parks system did not happen because they lacked a quorum. A Jan. 29 special meeting was canceled after only four of the nine commissioners showed up.
Some worry it will happen again.
“It has to stop,” Vetaw said Thursday. “People voted for us to do the work, to make the hard decisions, and attendance is important.”
The canceled meetings have pushed back board approvals for contracts, invasive aquatic species work and a new lease for Superintendent Al Bangoura’s residence in south Minneapolis.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who has to ratify the Park Board’s work, said Thursday he has noticed many “instances of delay” this year that have prevented him from signing off on parks matters.
“You can’t get basic business done when wrenches are thrown into gears and a quorum is denied,” he said. “It is clearly happening and it needs to stop.”
Vetaw, who was supposed to lead Wednesday’s meeting because President Jono Cowgill was on a long-planned vacation, said Bangoura is concerned given the time his staff members have spent preparing for the meetings.
Four commissioners were missing from both meetings: Londel French, AK Hassan, Kale Severson and former President Brad Bourn. While French, Severson and Bourn gave reasons for their absences Wednesday when reached by the Star Tribune, Vetaw said she did not know they would be missing before the meeting started.
In a statement late Thursday, Cowgill said it was “unacceptable” that commissioners did not inform him or Vetaw they would be absent from the meeting.
“I have communicated my desire to be notified when a Commissioner is going to be absent,” he said. “We need additional policies in place to ensure unannounced absences do not impact board business in the future.”
Bourn, who led the board for two years, said Wednesday he was on medication recovering from complications from surgery. On Thursday, he said it’s up to Cowgill and Vetaw to know who will be attending.
“That’s really on the leaders of the board,” Bourn said. “I spent a lot of time on the phone with commissioners. I don’t really know if that’s happening anymore.”
Bangoura did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
Other commissioners see the absences and lack of notice as an effort to undermine Cowgill’s leadership.
Commissioner Steffanie Musich called the absences “a bit of petty politics.”
“I’m incredibly frustrated that the Park Board is unable to do business due to lack of a quorum,” she said.
Commissioner Meg Forney, who missed the special meeting because of a planned vacation, said it was suspicious that four commissioners missed both meetings.
Bourn called the accusations that commissioners skipped meetings for political reasons “the epitome of disgusting.”
The next regular meeting of the Park Board is set for March 4.