SUNNYSIDE — Nothing has changed about Frank Sweet’s employment as the city’s interim manager here to the chagrin of a few vocal critics at Monday’s City Council meeting.
Several residents asked the City Council to put Sweet, accused of stealing and destroying public records at his previous job for the city of Selah, on administrative leave while his legal problems play out in Yakima County Superior Court.
“My concern isn’t that I have anything against Frank Sweet, my concern is that we have a double standard here,” said Bob Widmann, a local pastor. Had it been any other city employee, Sweet would have most likely placed that person on leave, Widmann said.
The Sunnyside City Council decided earlier this month to keep Sweet working. Nobody changed their mind Monday.
That didn’t sit well with some commenters, who wanted the issue addressed on the spot. “We need a response from you guys,” said Bengie Aguilar, a former councilwoman.
That’s not quite the way the public comment period works, however. The City Council in Sunnyside allows a round of public comments at the beginning of each meeting. Those who wish to speak must say their name and city of residence, keep their remarks to three minutes or less and address only the mayor as the chair of the Council.
Nothing in the rules mandates an answer.
Nevertheless, in response to those comments, Mayor Mike Farmer told the audience of about 40 or so that the Council unanimously stood behind Sweet. “We feel we’re on solid ground,” he said.
As the meeting rolled on, many of the critics left. At the end, the agenda called for announcements by council members.
Several used that time to tell the audience they aren’t ignoring a comment just because they don’t answer right away. Meetings have rules and they can’t just blurt things out whenever they want. Such rules prevent personal debate from taking up time set aside for business.
“We’re not being rude to you when we don’t answer you,” said Councilman Don Vlieger.
The Council members also pointed out that they unanimously support Sweet, which says a lot for the self-described divisive group. “We rarely all agree,” said Theresa Hancock, the councilwoman.
To be fair, not all residents spoke against Sweet on Monday.
Ron Strummer commended the council for keeping him, lauding the interim manager for his work on the budget.
“He’s the first city manager to get expenditures under control,” Strummer said.
— Ross Courtney