2009-07-24 / Top Stories

Once Again, Councilman Sanders Dismisses Attendance Problems

By Howard Schwach

Once again, City Councilman James Sanders Jr. has one of the lowest attendance rates in the elected body.

Official records show that Sanders was present for Council and mandated committee meetings only 61 percent of the time.

Only Maria Baez of the Bronx has a worse record, showing up only 56 percent of the time.

This is the third year that Sanders has recorded one of the worst attendance records in the City Council.

And, according to published reports in The Wave and in other periodicals, Sanders has always had an excuse for his poor attendance record.

In 2006, Sanders had the worst attendance record in the Council.

At the time, Sanders told The Wave that he missed many of the meetings because his mother was seriously ill, and he had to attend to her care before she passed away.

In 2007, Sanders attended to meetings only 71 percent of the time, a record that made him the third worst in the Council.

He chalked up his poor attendance to the necessity to be in his district.

"Last year was not a banner year for me in terms of attendance," he said, adding, "It was a banner year of crisis for my district."

Sanders cited numerous deadly fires, several youth murders and the Sean Bell case as examples of events that took him to his district more often than to the Council meetings. This year, Sanders blames the serious car accident he was involved in late in November of last year for his absence.

Sanders and some of his aides were returning to the city from the Pocono's Environmental Education Center in Pennsylvania, where they were checking on the site for a retreat that Sanders was planning for Rockaway youth. His car spun out on a rainslicked highway, flipping over a few times before coming to rest.

Aide Donovan Richards, who was in the car with Sanders at the time of the accident and who suffered injuries in the crash, told The Wave this week that the councilman is still recovering from the injuries sustained in the crash. "He was down and out for a long time after the accident, and he's still recovering," Richards said. "He is going to miss meetings because of his recovery. We try and keep his travel to Manhattan to a minimum. He sends me to important meetings, but I can't be recorded as present."

"He hasn't healed yet, and those who work for him know his constant pain," he added. "It has taken a real toll on him."

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