Kent County Commissioner Misses Meetings Amid Controversy

Posted at 5:50 PM, Jan 03, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-21 12:52:54-05

KENT COUNTY, Mich. – Kent County Commissioner Gary Rolls is catching heat for missing yet another meeting.

On Thursday, Jan. 3, other members of the commission were sworn in but Rolls was absent.

Some have speculated it may have something to do with the sexual assault allegations that have surfaced against him.

In September a 28-year-old woman requested a protection order against him for abuse that she claims began when she was 12-years-old.

Michigan State Police are investigating.

FOX17 pulled the attendance records for Rolls. When looking at the minutes from the meetings it’s  indicated that the commissioner has been absent six times since July.

“I have not seen him since probably a board of commissioner meeting in mid-October,” said Jim Saalfeld, Kent County Board of Commissioners Vice-Chair.

Dates in which Rolls has been absent include Sept., 27, Oct., 25, Nov. 8, Nov. 29, Dec. 13 and Jan. 3.

Saalfeld believes that Rolls’ legal issues may be playing a role, but he hasn’t talked to Rolls in quite some time.

“I would assume it ties into that. But, I don`t know for sure,” said Saalfeld.

Rolls’ absences were listed as “excused,” suggesting he’d given a legitimate reason for not attending.

FOX1 17 wanted to know what his reasons were and who authorized them.

What was discovered is that the system may be letting the public down.

In order to get an absence marked as “excused” a commissioner simply has to call the county clerk and say they won’t be at a meeting. With no questions asked, they are marked as “excused.” They aren’t required to give a true excuse.

When Saalfeld was asked what he thought of the system, he said it may not give the public a clear picture of what’s happening.

“I agree. It is a concern,” Saalfeld said. “I think the citizens have the right to understand what that means and I think they also have the right to expect their elected commissioner to be at a meeting.”

FOX 17 wanted to calculate what Rolls’ absence might mean for Kent County taxpayers.

In 2012 Gary Rolls made $18,000 a year serving as a commissioner.

If you break down the salary by the number of typical meetings per year,23, Rolls would get paid about $783 per meeting.

In 2012, Rolls missed six meetings since July.

That’s an estimated cost to taxpayers of around $3,915.

FOX 17 knocked on Rolls’ door to find out if he would be returning to work anytime soon.

He didn’t answer and no messages were returned.

The situation is leaving the public and other commissioners frustrated.

“A commissioner should be responsible enough to attend meetings, you know,” said Saalfeld. “The attendance is an important element to their service.”

Saalfeld said he will be heading a committee that will be looking into attendance when they review their standing rules. It’s a process done very two years.

He said they will likely look both at how the commission excuses absences and what recourse may be available if someone isn’t attending.