Apr 21, 2023 - News

Councilperson Indira Sheumaker has missed about 20% of meetings

Photo courtesy of the city of Des Moines

Indira Sheumaker has missed 13 Des Moines City Council meetings or work sessions since taking office in January 2022 — more than the other five council members and the mayor combined, according to an Axios review of city attendance records.

Why it matters: The meetings — generally two regular council meetings and two morning workshop sessions each month — are where most decisions are made.

  • Sheumaker has missed nearly 20% of them since taking office.

State of play: Sheumaker represents more than 50,000 people in her ward, which includes Beaverdale, Merle Hay and the Drake neighborhoods.

  • She did not respond to Axios' requests for comment.

Flashback: Axios was the first to report on Sheumaker's absences last July after she'd missed more than a month of meetings without explanation to the mayor or city manager.

  • Sheumaker then released a statement within hours of the story's publication saying she was suffering from COVID-19 and depression.
  • She wrote that she intended to seek personal and professional accommodations.

The intrigue: Sheumaker was elected on a platform of defunding the police, defeating incumbent Bill Gray in the November 2021 election 47% to 35%.

Driving the news: Since Sheumaker's July 2022 statement, she has missed seven more meetings.

  • The most recent regular council meeting she attended was on March 6.
  • The city last year offered to make accommodations to help assist in her attendance but she has not responded or inquired about them, city manager Scott Sanders tells Axios.

The latest: She missed a public hearing and vote on the city's 2023-2024 budget last week, which is arguably the council's most important action of the year.

  • DMPD's annual operating budget will increase by more than $1.1 million, to almost $78.2 million, starting in July.

Details: There have been 66 council meetings since Sheumaker took office where attendance was taken by the city clerk.

  • Councilmembers Carl Voss and Josh Mandelbaum had perfect attendance.
  • Mayor Frank Cownie has seven absences, the second most. All of them were for city work-related trips that he notified the city manager about before attending, a city spokesperson tells Axios.

Of note: There are no attendance requirements for council members. They are part-time and are paid almost $29,000 a year.

  • The mayor makes almost $58K.

What they're saying: Sheumaker has been unwilling or unable to speak with residents or groups about projects that require city involvement, Kimberley Strope-Boggus, a member of the Beaverdale Park Improvements Committee, tells Axios.

  • As an alternative, she says her group has resorted to consulting with at-large council members.

Meanwhile: Connie Boesen and Voss, DSM's two at-large council members, tell Axios they don't support and aren't aware of city plans to impeach Sheumaker, a rare legal move that was costly and unsuccessful for the city of Muscatine several years ago.

  • They instead encourage residents to consider attendance when voting if Sheumaker seeks re-election in two years.

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