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Avella slams Council truants

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City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) criticized some of his fellow Queens lawmakers who have not shown up for numerous committee meetings over the past fiscal year, saying the politicians should drop out of the committee rather than continually miss meetings that typically occur once or twice a month.

Councilmen James Sanders (D-Laurelton) attended 61 percent and James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) 66 percent of their fiscal year 2009 committee meetings, according to documents obtained by the New York Post. Sanders’ record was the second-worst in the Council, following Bronx Democrat Maria Baez. Gennaro’s number of absences landed him the third-worst performance as far as committee meeting attendance.

“Showing up is part of the job,” said Avella, who achieved perfect attendance. “It’s very important you not only attend meetings to do the voting, but you go to committee meetings. When members don’t show up, it affects the effectiveness of the body.”

“If you’re on three committees, maybe you have three meetings a monthi” Avella added. “That’s not a lot. If you can’t make the meetings, you can ask to be taken off the committee.”

Donovan Richards, a spokesman for Sanders, said the councilman missed the meetings because of a serious car accident in November during which he said Sanders was nearly paralyzed. The city’s fiscal year ended June 30.

“The doctors were saying this man possibly wouldn’t walk again,” Richards said. “He was in the ICU for almost a month and then he was going to therapy. The accident took him out for maybe four months, and he’s still recovering.”

Richards pointed out that he attended some of the committee meetings to report to Sanders what was discussed.

“I think that people are frankly more interested in what I bring home and not how many meetings I go to,” Sanders said.

Gennaro missed about one-third of his committee meetings, which his spokesman Brad Groznik attributed to a family situation.

“Sadly, for the last seven months, Council member Gennaro has had to dedicate much of his time to the care of a seriously ill family member,” Groznik said. “The Council member regrets that this situation has caused him to miss committee meetings, but he has kept up his schedule at his district office and the Committee on Environmental Protection, which he chairs.”

Avella and Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) were the only two Council members to achieve perfect attendance at committee meetings. Avella, a Democratic candidate for mayor, chairs the Zoning and Franchises Committee and sits on the Fire and Criminal Justice Services, Higher Education, Housing and Buildings, Land Use and Veterans committees.

Sanders sits on the Juvenile Justice, Technology in Government, Women’s Issues and Community Development committees.

Gennaro chairs the Environmental Protection and sits on the Civil Service and Labor, Consumer Affairs, Finance, Mental Health, Mental Retardation, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse and Disability Services, Public Safety, Sanitation and Solid Waste Management committees.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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