Cave Creek now in a post-Usama era

‘Forty-eight hours ago there was a vote. It was a shocker that left the community divided.’

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CAVE CREEK – Since the new council has been elected, special meetings of the town council seem to have become the norm rather than the exception.

rodney glassmanOn June 12, council met to discuss the possible appointment of Rodney Glassman (l) as acting town manager, which was included in Vice Mayor Adam Trenk’s motion to terminate the town manager on Monday.

During Call to the Public, Scott Dahne said he learned the town has cancelled the Taste of Cave Creek and cancelled its advertising for Hidden in the Hills and asked council to look into it.

Councilman Reg Monachino asked for the matter to be placed on an upcoming agenda.

Mayor Vincent Francia said the next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 25.

Town Attorney Gary Birnbaum explained the procedure for the meeting, which he said was not really different from any other meeting.

As far as the way Trenk called the special meeting wrapped up in his motion to terminate Town Manager Usama Abujbarah, Birnbaum said what he did was highly preferable over the process stated in the town code, which could bring open meeting law violations into question.

Councilman Thomas McGuire asked Birnbaum if another nomination could be made.

Birnbaum said, “Then you should vote no. The matter agendized for tonight is the recommendation of Mr. Glassman. It would be inappropriate to do anything else.”

Councilman Ernie Bunch asked if council should do something about the way special meetings are called.

Currently, either the mayor may call for a special meeting or upon the written request by four members of council.

rancia said it would be placed on a future agenda.

Francia said he prefers council meet during regular sessions because special sessions do not provide citizens with enough notice.

Francia introduced the agenda item and invited Glassman to speak.

Glassman, a Phoenix resident, said he spoke to every member of council and received a phone all from Trenk “a while ago regarding this opportunity.”

When asked what he accomplished during his tenure as a Tucson City Councilman, Glassman said he received his Ph.D. in arid land resources sciences and said he accomplished gray water irrigation, solar water heaters for new construction and other projects.

Councilman Durkin asked, “Has privatization ever come up between us or any member of council?”

Glassman said it had not.

Councilman Spitzer, who was appearing telephonically, asked him to explain his vision.

Glassman said his position would be to work together with the mayor and council with transparency and accountability.

Councilman Thomas McGuire asked Glassman what experience he has in management.

Glassman said he studied public administration in college, served four years as an aide to Rep. Raul Grijalva (D), spent two-and-a-half years on Tucson City Council and worked managing employees for Waste Management in Arizona and New Mexico.

When Monachino asked if he was OK with the six-and-half-month term of the assignment, he said he was.

Bunch asked if when working for Grijalva if he wrote any of his statements, joking about Grijalva calling for a boycott of Arizona.

Glassman said his position with Grijalva was solely business and agriculture.

He said he is also a licensed realtor.

Trenk asked him to tell council a little bit about his position as a JAG officer and asked if that would interfere with the position.

As a reserve JAG officer for the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Glassman said he is required to serve a minimum of 12 days and two consecutive weeks per year but would not require him to be deployed.

During public comment, Scott Dahne said he was impressed with Glassman’s resume, the fact that he was an Eagle Scout and a military officer.

Dahne said he also took the time to call Glassman and stated, “I’m convinced he’s the right person,” as he asked council to seriously consider hiring him.

everett bellEverett Bell (r) said he had a few questions and asked, “Only one candidate? Just one? No other candidate for this very important position?”

Bell asked, “Who did the interviewing? Who did the vetting?”

Trenk said Glassman was his suggestion.

Bell went on to say, “The reality is, you have a town manager who is already being paid.”

Stating there was “certainly a shadow” that something had taken place before hand, since it had been only two days since terminating the town manager, Bell questioned whether the four new elected officials hadn’t met privately to discuss the matter.

Trenk said they had not met privately since being sworn in except to attend a party.

Bell asked, “Do you really believe you are serving the will of the residents of Cave Creek?”

Steve LaMar said, “I don’t know Mr. Glassman. I assume you’ve done your due diligence.”

LaMar said there were issues raised about Glassman plagiarizing when he was running against Sen. McCain.

And while Trenk said he was “humbled and honored” to be supported by McCain while he was running for town council, McCain said Glassman “doesn’t have the integrity to serve.”

Terry Smith said he was at the meeting the other night and told Trenk he was disappointed.

Smith said, “Whoever voted against the town manager, you’re no better than the man you got rid of. New members have jumped normal procedures.”

He said, “When the town manager is not available, the town clerk takes over. Naming someone to jump in the same day the other is gone … bringing another town manager in is not right and it divided the town.”

Janet Mohr said she was very concerned about the speed at which everything was happening.

“I’m very concerned,” she said, asking, “What is the big hurry to do this?”

Don Sorchych said, “Nobody knows why this is happening so quickly. It sounds like a vendetta to me for sure if you four people vote for him. You had an experienced town manager and you set him on the sidelines. Mike Chutz said his goal was to privatize Cave Creek. This is way too fast and totally wrong.”

Lee Pello said one of the duties Glassman will be tasked with is overseeing a process to select a new permanent town manager.

She said, “I’d love to have a job where I can select my competitors,” and asked, “Is he here six months or is he a candidate?”

Birnbaum explained the decision-making process is up to council.

He also explained if the town manager is temporarily unable to perform his duties the town clerk assumes the authority of the town manager. If a vacancy occurs, council may assign the duties to any other person.

Gilbert Lopez said, “Gentlemen, you’re darned if you do, darned if you don’t. You picked one because you can’t procrastinate and wait.”

Bell said Lopez made a good point and stated, “This council has not interviewed this candidate.
I hope you’re listening to your conscience and do what’s good for the town.

Russ Carlson said, “I think Mr. Glassman is a really cool person,” but asked council to bring in more people. “You need to do more.”

Bunch moved to approve hiring Glassman with a second from Durkin.

However, Bunch stated, “This is not a Kumbaya moment,” and said Town Clerk Carrie Dyrek “has an impeccable reputation.”

He said the money bothers him – eight months of Abujbarah’s salary and six-and-a-half months of another salary.

Bunch said there were plenty of people around and a lot of choices. He said it was their responsibility to do their due diligence while stating he didn’t believe it was fiscally responsible.

Durkin said, “Wow! On my honor, I didn’t have any discussions with anyone after I was elected.
However, being new to this job, I have to give Councilman Bunch’s comments some consideration.”

Durkin noted there was an enormous amount of mistrust and the money does bother him.

While he claimed there was no collusion on preselecting Glassman, Durkin said his name had come up before.

Spitzer said he spoke to Glassman for about two hours and stated the fact that he’s a JAG officer led him to believe Glassman is honest and trustworthy and would do an outstanding job.

Monachino said he considered Glassman’s degrees, the fact that he has a doctorate, he’s an attorney, has business and government experience and what others think of him.

“The individual himself has the time, energy and willingness to do the job,” said Monachino.
“We’ve heard he’s a Democrat. I don’t see what that has to do with his duties.”

He said if Dyrek could do the job the town wouldn’t need two positions, adding, “I don’t know that she has time to do that.”

Monachino went on to say, “It was mentioned he plagiarized something. I don’t buy the plagiarism. That was just a campaign slogan (sic). I will support Mr. Glassman.”

McGuire stated, “I’ll say this has been an odd process. Putting motions together bothered me.
There is no emergency. I spoke to Carrie and she said she could do this.”

He said Mr. Glassman has no background or experience in managing a town and there is a variety of people who live in Cave Creek.

Trenk said, “There isn’t anything here that hasn’t given me pause. We made a decision the other night to terminate the town manager without cause. For the short term, we need a special breed of person with a backbone of steel. This was an emergency, we selected a person I feel can do the job.”

“It looks expensive,” said Trenk, “But there is an awful lot of bloat in the budget so I’m going to support this motion enthusiastically.”

Durkin said he was terribly frustrated because there were numbers to worry about and emotions to worry about and how much they were at risk with the people.

Monachino said he didn’t have an exact figure but believed there was room in the budget for the expenditure.

Trenk stated, “It is absolutely imperative we hire an interim town manager. Yes, we need to spend that money.”

Bunch said, “I disagree. The process for finding a new town manager is a three to four month process.”

As far as getting quotes for an audit, he suggested, “Why don’t we do it ourselves? There’s no magic to it.”

In reference to bringing in a new person Bunch said, “I don’t think it’s necessary. Can we afford to do it? Yes. Is it responsible to do it? No.”

McGuire said they needed more than one candidate and for him it’s not an emotional issue.

Bunch stated the blood pressure of the entire town staff is incredibly elevated over this and said they’re worried about their jobs.

Spitzer said some people in town may not trust the town government itself and that was why they should bring in an independent party with no allegiance to anyone in the town.

vencent franciaFrancia said the selection of an interim manager is more important than the money if it needs to be done that expeditiously.

He immediately clarified, “Expeditious is not tonight for me.”

Trenk said he didn’t make decisions based on emotion and asked if they waited until June 25 what the process would be for bringing in other candidates.

Monachino said speed is essential and the town cannot go leaderlessly with no one at the helm.

Durkin said, “We are at the helm.”

Trenk asked, “To float this around for 12 days, what will change?”

Durkin asked Glassman if they waited until June 25 would he be available.

Glassman said he’s been involved in three budget cycles and he is willing and able to work with them. He went on about some other things and said, “I plan on starting Monday morning.”

Again, Durkin asked, “If we delay this two weeks, are you still available?”

Glassman replied, “Yes.”

Francia said if the motion didn’t pass he would suggest an alternative motion to move the item to June 25. He said, “My problem is not with Glassman. Forty-eight hours ago there was a vote.
It was a shocker that left the community divided. We’re now in a post-Usama era.”

He said they were all concerned about the healing process and this healing is different than after prior town incidents, including the recall of Mayor Bernard Buffenstein.

Francia said the vice mayor was correct in the urgency and said the cancellation of the Taste of Cave Creek was extremely disturbing.

“Things are moving a little too fast,” said Francia, “A bit of time to me is 13 days, not further.
Out of respect for the citizens who spoke tonight, I’m willing to wait until the 25th.”

Birnbaum suggested they clarify the salary in the motion so it was clear as to whether it included benefits or not.

The motion to hire Glassman failed by a vote of 3-4, with Trenk, Spitzer and Monachino voting in favor.

Another motion was discussed to add the item to the June 25 agenda and start the meeting at 5 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.

Durkin said he would be unable to be there that early.

Trenk suggested holding a special meeting on Monday, June 24.

Francia reminded Trenk the reason the June 17 meeting was moved to June 25 was because he would be on vacation in Alaska.

Trenk said he could return a day earlier.

Town Attorney Marlene Pontrelli said the process for soliciting candidates could be the same as for any other appointments.

A motion was made to set the special meeting at 7 p.m. on June 24 with a deadline for interested parties to submit letters of interest with their resumes by noon on June 17.

The motion passed by a vote of 6-1 with Monachino, who stated, “I can’t support this. It’s just another delay,” dissenting.

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