SUNNYSIDE — Former Sunnyside interim City Manager Frank Sweet won’t return to his job, the Sunnyside City Council decided Wednesday night on a 5-1 vote.
“I can’t in good faith bring him back and the reason why I say that is because Sunnyside has already moved forward,” Mayor Jim Restucci said during debate before the vote in reference to the city’s new interim city manager, John Darrington.
Council member Theresa Hancock had originally voted against hiring Sweet, but on Wednesday was the only council member to vote in his favor. She said he had improved operations at City Hall.
Reading a prepared statement, Sweet took about 8 minutes to lay out his argument against his dismissal. He said the council fired him hastily and for personal reasons rather than for job performance.
“I have not been told by the Sunnyside City Council that I was not performing my job in a satisfactory matter or that I wasn’t meeting expectations,” Sweet said.
After the vote, Sweet had no comment on whether he would pursue legal action against the city.
Sweet’s troubles started last August when he was charged with injury to public records, second-degree theft and third-degree theft in connection with his previous job as city supervisor in Selah.
Prosecutors allege he removed a laptop computer and city documents from his office and deleted files under his control in January 2012 as he was about to leave the job under a new mayor. A trial is set for June 10 in Yakima County Superior Court.
After Sweet left Selah, he was hired in March 2012 as the interim city manager in Sunnyside. City officials there had just agreed to negotiate with him for a permanent post hours before he was arrested on the Selah accusations.
Sunnyside kept him as a temporary manager but fired him in February for his handling of conflict with the Sunnyside Police Department, in particular an apparent attempt to fire Deputy Police Chief Phil Schenck, who has been acting chief.
Sweet said the hiring and firing of personnel is within the rights of a city manager under a council-manager form of government.
“If there are issues, they should be specific and not based on personnel issues,” Sweet said.
But council member Jason Raines said Sweet’s contract allowed for him to be fired or retained at the will of the council. “A determination was made by the council that it was not a good fit,” he said.
Council members Craig Hicks, Dean Broersma and Don Vlieger also voted against Sweet. Council member Francisco Guerrero was absent.
About 10 Sunnyside residents testified at the hearing, and all but one supported Sweet.
“He was all about being positive and having a positive energy,” Patricia Combs, a volunteer with the city said.
The city has already hired a firm to search for a permanent city manager. Restucci said the city anticipates naming a permanent city manager in the next two months.
• Mike Faulk can be reached at 509-577-7675 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Mike_Faulk.