City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III returned to the council yesterday, saying that he canceled last week's session and missed the Board of Estimates meeting because he was out of town.
Bell indicated that he was in Atlanta meeting with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, but he would not elaborate.
"Contrary to published reports, I was out of town," Bell said at the beginning of the council meeting.
E. Randel T. Osburn, executive vice president of the SCLC, said Bell did meet with them last week but declined to talk about the nature of the meeting.
Last week, Bell's spokesman would not say where the council president was, despite the unusual decision to cancel the council session and skip the Board of Estimates meeting. The spokesman, David Brown, said he was not at liberty to say where Bell was.
Bell had dubbed himself the "Cal Ripken" of council and Board of Estimates meetings. He had not missed a meeting until after the primary election last month, in which he lost the mayoral contest.
Bell's absence at the Board of Estimates meeting left the council's seat on the five-member board vacant. Because they did not know where Bell was, council members and other city officials questioned why he did not attend the meetings.