NEOSHO, Mo. — If voters agree, the Neosho City Council will grow from five seats to seven.
The council voted 5-0 during a special meeting Thursday to place the measure on the November ballot, according to the terms of the city's charter.
"We used to have 6,500, now we're up to 12,000 plus," said Mayor Carmin Allen. "I think the city should have more representation."
Though Mayor Carmin Allen said this is an idea he has been thinking about for several months, one council member's recent struggle with illness punctuated the need for it. Council member William Doubek has missed several meetings while recovering from a medical emergency.
Council member Angela Thomas noted that the potential for ties is stronger with a board of five missing one.
An equitable spread of representation by residence would also be addressed by the measure, Allen said, who noted the parts of town where current members live.
"This opens it up to where we might get more people from all over the town," Allen said. "Different parts of town need representation."
By answering "yes" during Thursday's roll call, Doubek removed questions about whether he would continue to serve on the council. He attended the meeting remotely, using web-conferencing.
Doubek has been receiving medical treatment for a ruptured stomach and septic poisoning that occurred on April 6. He is receiving treatment at Medicalodges Neosho, he said.
Doubek said he does not remember the rupture happening. He was placed into an induced medical coma for two weeks as damage was repaired by surgeons. Afterward, he was in the hospital for two more weeks, then transferred to his current accommodations at Medicalodges Neosho.
Because the city knew about his condition, he assumed his absences were considered excused. When he found out they were not, he said he was surprised.
"I was in an induced coma for two weeks, and I had another two weeks in the hospital," Doubek said. "They all knew about my condition, and knew I had emergency surgery. I don't know why they didn't excuse me."
Allen said that he had been excusing Doubek's absences, but was advised by city staff that he could no longer do so. Allen said he contacted Doubek to tell him the council's hands were tied — the city's procedure calls for council members to contact the city before each meeting in order to be considered excused.
"No one here wanted him off the council," Allen said. "I don't want to replace him. He's a good council member... but we have to go by the city charter. If we don't, then we are not upholding what we are supposed to do."
According to the charter, a council member who has missed three consecutive meetings without being excused, or who misses half of the meetings in a six-month period, forfeits their seat. Had Doubek not attended Thursday's meeting, he would have been considered in forfeiture, Allen said.
This week Doubek submitted two letters to the city, he said: One offering his resignation, and another rescinding that resignation.
Doubek said he will remain in rehabilitation until about the second week of August. He intends to fulfill his term, he said, and the teleconferencing equipment provided by the city will let him carry out his job. He was elected to a second term in April 2019.
In other meeting business:
• The board called a special meeting for Tuesday dealing with an emergency order passed in the beginning stages of the pandemic. The emergency order limits gatherings of 11 or more people, with exceptions. A memorandum of understanding for testing introduced by Thomas is expected to be discussed.
During Thursday's meeting, council members expressed concern over crowds expected to be drawn by a weekend car show and the upcoming Newton County Fair.
• The board accepted the resignation of City Attorney Steven Hays. He will remain in the city's employ until July 31, or until the council determines a replacement, whichever comes first.
Hays said investment in a new business opportunity and his current private practice will not leave enough time to serve the city.