The Hearne City Council has not reached a quorum during its last two regular meetings, raising questions about whether the city's bills will get paid.

Mayor Ruben Gomez and Councilman Michael Werlinger have been absent from regular meetings scheduled for March 3 and this past Tuesday, according to city officials.

Although the council did not reach the required two-thirds quorum to conduct general business during its latest meeting, it did meet the required numbers to formalize the March 3 recall election that removed Maxine Vaughn from a council seat she had held for almost eight years. The Texas Election Code requires only two members be present to canvass an election, and three council members were in attendance Tuesday -- Hazel Embra, Lashunda White and Joyce Rattler.

Also on the agenda earlier this week: the appointment of a person to fill Vaughn's seat, the selection of a mayor pro-tem and discussion and approval of accounts payable through March 12. None of those issues were addressed due to a lack of quorum despite the Hearne City Charter's requirement that the council appoint a qualified person to fill a vacant seat or schedule a special election within 10 days of the vacancy. Vaughn would have been up for re-election in May.

"I'm very concerned about it because it's our responsibility to oversee and take care of the business of the city," Embra said. "As council people, we're supposed to approve accounts payable."

City Attorney Bryan Russ said he has seen "no evidence that the bills are not going to get paid" because in a city-manager form of government, such as in the city of Hearne, it is the city manager who is in charge of day-to-day administrative affairs. The council has already approved the budget in place and are "simply ratifying payments" that have already been made, Russ said.

Gomez and Werlinger could not be reached for comment but Russ said Gomez has been under a doctor's care. It's unclear why Werlinger has not been in attendance at regular meetings.

While Russ hopes the City Council absences don't continue, he said the city is paying its bills.

"The city cannot allow political disagreements to affect day-to-day administrations," he said, adding that it has a "lawful duty to pay the bills."

Russ plans to visit with City Manager Pee Wee Drake on Monday. Drake was not available for comment Thursday.

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"Pee Wee Drake", , , you can't make this stuff up!

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