Wright booted from planning commission

She claimed the call for her removal was in retaliation and said, ‘I will not be a political pawn’

Bookmark and Share

CAVE CREEK – Vice Mayor Steve LaMar and Councilman Ernie Bunch brought forward an amendment to the town code to reduce the size of the planning commission from seven members to five.

Bunch brought the item up before the previous council in November but it was voted down unanimously.

eileen wrightDuring public comment, Eileen Wright (r) stated there was obviously an agenda and the only thing that has changed since five months ago is there are four new council members.

She said seven to nine members is considered best practice.

Wright urged council not to reduce the size of the commission and not remove one of the commissioners.

Anna Marsolo quoted Mayor Vincent Francia, who believes the more citizen participation in government the better, from the November meeting when the issue was first raised.

Mike Durkin, who was successfully recalled from council, said, “I know all you folks know this, but to effectively govern you need to earn trust.”

He stated his opposition to removing Wright from the commission and spoke about the general plan process and how Wright was told by staff an editable version could not be distributed to the public.

Durkin said, “It’s not your general plan. It’s not the planning commission’s general plan. It’s the citizens’ general plan.”

Cheryl Carmitchel said the town of Wickenburg has an organizational flow chart that shows citizens at the top but she was unaware as to whether Cave Creek had such a chart.

Carmitchel said she was very passionate about having a seven-member commission and stated the planning commission provides citizens a voice.

Kerry Smith said most of what he had to say had been and claimed the issues have been the general plan.

Considering the planning commission currently has a lot of work ahead of it with the general plan, Smith said it would make more sense to add a member to the commission.

Lisa Greenman said she was against reducing the planning commission to five and said, “If anything, you should be seeking someone to fill a position.”

Ed Samples said he was a bit curious when he found out about the agenda item and asked if either LaMar or Bunch could give him a reason why.

C.W. Jensen said, “We need seven members and if you need someone to serve, I have plenty of time.”

Katya Kincel handed council copies of the minutes from the November meeting when the subject was last raised.

Johnny Ringo said, “You need to listen to us. The number seven is a lucky number.”

He noted the Water Advisory Committee (WAC) has seven members and stated, “We need all the luck we can have.”

Ringo recommended council keep Wright and keep the commission at seven members.

Anna Marsolo read a brief statement from Ellen Kohrs, who was unable to attend, in opposition to reducing the commission to five members.

LaMar moved to approve the first reading but stated the reduction of the number of commission members and the removal of a commissioner were two stand-alone agenda items.

Bunch, who seconded the motion, pointed out Arizona Game and Fish, which has a substantially larger budget than Cave Creek, has a five-member commission.

He said they receive a large volume of applications to serve on the commission and are able to pick the best candidates.

Although he voted against his own motion back in November, Bunch said, “I’m going to support it this time.”

Councilman Dick Esser said he contacted numerous communities and learned one small community was landlocked and had no planning commission.

Some communities had seven members but said they had difficulty finding enough people to serve and few were thinking about reducing the size to five.

Esser said, “Like Vice Mayor LaMar said, these are two separate items.”

Councilwoman Susan Clancy said it seemed like the same issue to her but she would like to understand it better.

She said it came as a surprise to her when a name was mentioned.

Councilman Mark Lipsky, addressed Carmitchel and said, “You, the citizens, are number one.”

Lipsky said he was at the November meeting when the mayor said the more, the better.

He said, “I see no reason to reduce the number. The more the merrier.”

Councilman Thomas McGuire said he recognized there was a recent planning commission meeting without a quorum and agreed these were two separate agenda items.

Francia said his feelings on the matter were unchanged.

Council voted 1-6 against reducing the number of members with Bunch voting in favor.

Council moved on to the agenda item to remove a member from the commission and that member being Wright.

Wright, who pointed out she was just reappointed to a second three-year term in December, said, “I ask you not to judge me for who I am but for what I’ve done.”

Wright indicated she called out serious defects to the town’s attention as to the manner in which the general plan was being handled.

She claimed the call for her removal was in retaliation and said, “I will not be a political pawn.”

Reg Monachino asked, “Why no cause? Because it’s legally beneficial to give no reason. If you give reasons you have to defend them.”

Monachino asked, “How could you get rid of someone who volunteers and give no reason.”

Smith said he was confused and thought if agenda item three was rejected there would be no agenda item four.

Smith questioned how the public was supposed to comment “when we don’t know who goes, unnamed, with no explanation.”

Gerald Freeman said after the election certain members of council were following Don Sorchych’s marching orders to eliminate the planning commission.

Freeman stated, “You’re just doing it piecemeal.”

Robert Peterson said he didn’t understand what “no cause” is about.

Marsolo said she’s been coming to meetings for 25 years, stated Wright is articulate and asked Bunch to withdraw the agenda item.

Greenman said, “Call me naïve, but I didn’t really know what this was about. It’s about Eileen Wright but could be about any commissioner.”

Durkin stated, “Obviously there’s some sort of agenda here.”

He said he didn’t think staff intentionally did things wrong when it rolled out the general plan and was glad they have rectified the problems.

Carmitchel said she appreciated the fact the mayor doesn’t say no to agenda items but said they had spent one and a half hours on something that could have been time better spent.

Kincel stated, “Eileen has done an incredible job,” and asked Bunch to retract his resolution.

LaMar moved to remove Wright and stated, “This is a for cause motion. Commissioners serve at the pleasure of council and I’m not pleased with Ms. Wright’s performance.

Bunch, who seconded the motion, said, “For me, it has nothing to do with the general plan.”

He brought up Wright’s conduct with respect to Tractor Supply’s application, whereas Wright voted to recommend denial despite Tractor Supply agreeing to do more than what the town’s rules and regulations require.

Bunch pointed out he voted to reappoint Wright and said he’s hired employees but when they don’t perform as well as he expected he’s had to fire employees too.

Esser said he watched Wright at a few workshops and stated, “She does not work well with staff.”

Esser said he observed her on a prior occasion where she insisted on having her way.

He called Wright “very disruptive” and noted, “We’ve removed commissioners before.”

McGuire said, “This is not about the general plan. I will support removing Ms. Wright.”

Clancy said it should be the committee on which they serve that decides if someone is not working out.

She said she didn’t have enough information, adding, “I don’t know Mrs. Wright.”

Lipsky stated, “As someone who has been a dissenter and squeaky wheel, I applaud that.”

Lipsky said he learns a lot more from people who disagree with him.

However, he said he hasn’t been at the meetings and hasn’t had as much experience with Mrs. Wright.

Lipsky said, “I have enormous respect for people who show up.”

LaMar said he viewed this as an opportunity and stated, “I’m going to vote to remove.”

Francia said he was going to make his comments non-personal and focus on diversity.

He said council, the commission and committees serve the citizens.

Francia spoke about how the removal of the town manager being removed, which he didn’t support, affected him.

After a long pause, Francia said, “It broke my heart,” and because of that he would not be part of this.

Council voted 4-3 to remove Wright with Francia, Clancy and Lispky dissenting.

readers love sonoran news