What has become of City Councilor Michael T. Gaffney?

That is a question many people, both inside and outside of City Hall, are asking these days after the at-large councilor was missing in action for the fourth straight City Council meeting Tuesday night.

In fact, Mr. Gaffney has missed five of the last seven council meetings since he announced on Oct. 16 that he had withdrawn his candidacy for re-election as an at-large councilor.

He did not attend the council meetings on Oct. 17, Nov. 14, Nov. 21, Nov. 28 or this past Tuesday night. The only meetings he attended were on Oct. 24 and Oct. 31, according to the city clerk's office.

He also missed the last two meetings (Oct. 18 and Nov. 15) of the council's Traffic and Parking Committee, of which he is a member, and the Public Service and Transportation Committee, which he chairs, has not met since Sept. 27. It was scheduled to meet on Oct. 16 but that meeting was canceled.

Mr. Gaffney withdrew as a council candidate to "pursue another opportunity," adding that he no longer had the time needed to devote to City Council. He never elaborated on what that other opportunity might be.

Though he dropped his candidacy, Mr. Gaffney’s name still appeared on the Nov. 7 municipal ballot because he dropped out of the race after the ballot had been formally set.

Just before the election, Mr. Gaffney said if he ended up winning re-election he would serve to the best of his ability. He said while he would not be able to attend every City Council meeting, he made it a point of saying that he would attend budget meetings and the annual tax classification hearing at a minimum.

As things turned out, Mr. Gaffney did not come close to winning re-election; he finished eighth in the eight-person at-large field and has not been seen at a City Council meeting since the election.

More than a few eyebrows were raised by Mr. Gaffney's absence at Tuesday night's tax classification hearing, especially because he had seemed to make that annual meeting a priority of his if he had won re-election.

Mayor Joseph M. Petty, who chairs the City Council, said he has not heard from Mr. Gaffney and has no idea where he is or what he might be doing these days.

City Clerk Susan M. Ledoux, whose office has regular interaction with all city councilors, said she has not seen or heard from Mr. Gaffney since the last council meeting he attended on Oct. 31.

Many of his council colleagues say the same thing, and no one seems to know anything.

One thing appears certain and that is that Mr. Gaffney has not resigned. He is still listed as a member of the City Council on the city’s website.

All of which has some people asking the question: Is Mr. Gaffney still drawing his council salary even though he has not attended the past several meetings?

Mr. Gaffney's annual council salary is $29,000. He was one of five councilors to turn down the last automatic pay raise; five other councilors who did not decline to take the pay raise receive $31,444 annually.

An attempt was made to reach Mr. Gaffney for comment via email, but there was no response.

Meanwhile, Michael Vigneux, the city's media relations specialist, said Mr. Gaffney continues to be paid and remains eligible for benefits until his term of office expires at the end of this year.

There are two regular meetings left in the City Council’s current term and it remains to be seen if Mr. Gaffney is going to attend those.

If he had no plans of attending any more council meetings after the election, Mr. Gaffney could have stepped down and let someone else serve the remaining weeks of his term. That has happened before.

Back in 1979, City Councilor Michael J. Donoghue, who was elected Worcester County treasurer in 1978, stepped down during the last month of his council term. Sara J. Robertson, who was next in line for the seat by virtue of her finish in the 1977 municipal election, declined to take it and it ended up going to Doris P. Huard, who finished behind Mrs. Robertson and made her name as a staunch opponent of the civic center project in the 1970s.