DURING THE PAST three years some members of the Prince George's County Council have behaved as if conducting the county's business were a trivial matter. Frequent absences from meetings - and late arrivals - have become commonplace. So has the dubious practice of members missing legislative sessions and then - later in the day and out of the public view - recording their votes on issues, And the council's penchant for voice votes has made tracking and individual member's voting record nearly impossible. These practices had become so prevalent that last week the council felt obliged to pass a resolution doing away with them.
The resolution which doesn't prescribe any penalties states that each member's presence at or absence from each meeting of the full council on a committee will be recorded. There must be a roll-call vote on all legislative and procedural questions as well as for letters and appointments signed by the council chairman on the council's behalf. Council members must be present when a vote on a substantive question is taken; they won't be allowed to record their votes later.
No other council in the Washington area has such explicit and strict procedures governing attendance and voting.
Three council members abstained from voting on the resolution (eight voted for it). They said the new rules would slow drastically the council's conduct of business and burden council members whose absences are caused by the demands of their private business (the council position officially is a part-time job). We think the new rules are sound. No one is forced to seek a council seat. Those who win the office have chosen to take on the added burdens that public service imposes.