Contentious Pima Town Council to interview for town manager

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Despite infighting, the Pima Town Council advised it had narrowed down its applicants for its open town manager job to five from 13 and would begin its interview process Thursday night.

By Jon Johnson

PIMA – The Pima Town Council is looking to find a replacement for Sean Lewis who stepped down as town manager on Aug. 5. 

Whoever is selected will be thrown into the fire as the in-fighting between council members continues despite the removal of Lewis from the equation. 

The level of contention between the council members was clearly evident to everyone who attended its Tuesday night meeting, with members snapping at each other and catcalls coming from those in attendance. 

Despite the contention, Pima Mayor C.B. Fletcher advised that the council had whittled down the list of applicants from 13 to five and will begin interviewing three of the final applicants Thursday night, starting at 6:30 p.m., with the final two candidates being interviewed on Tuesday, Sept. 14.   

“We’re going to keep the option of reinterviewing one or two candidates if we feel it necessary,” Fletcher said. “As soon as that is completed then we will offer the job to a (candidate). We’re going to choose a number one and a number two. We’ll try to get the number one to accept the position. If not, then we’ll go to number two.”

Two of the remaining five candidates are from out of town, according to Fletcher, who advised that a thorough background investigation will be undertaken for the candidates. 

“We cannot demand that they live in the town of Pima, but most of the candidates that we got would like to move to Pima, so that’s a good thing right there,” Fletcher said. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: From left, councilmember Lucas Hoopes listens as Pima Mayor C.B. Fletcher speaks on a topic.

Whoever is selected will have to deal with a divided council that is still evidently reeling from the fiasco that ended with Lewis’ resignation. 

At one point during the meeting, Fletcher, who was a proponent for Lewis, was advising on a land deal that he said was done a year-and-a-half ago that was questioned by council member Lucas Hoopes. Fletcher told Hoopes to take his word on it and Hoopes replied, “I’m not taking your word for it C.B.”

Previously during the meeting, a local contractor spoke about an incident he had where he believed a council member behaved poorly due to an issue she has with the former town manager. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Contractor Ben Hughes explains an issue he recently had with the actions of councilmember Sherrill Teeter.

Builder Brian Hughes spoke during the Call to the Public portion of the meeting and described an issue he recently had when trying to solve a situation he was experiencing with his small subdivision and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. Hughes called Mayor Fletcher for assistance, and Fletcher brought in Lewis, who until recently was working with both groups in his role as town manager and had the most knowledge of the situation. However, when council member Sherrill Teeter noticed Lewis’ vehicle, she became concerned because she felt Lewis should not be in the office on the property because he had resigned from his position. 

“We were interrupted rudely, Sherrill,” Hughes said. “It was very unprofessional of you to come into that room demanding what you demanded . . . I’m sorry you didn’t know what the meeting was about but I think you could have handled yourself differently. In the future, I hope you would take that consideration that not everybody is out to get you or the town or whatever is going on around here.”

Teeter said she questioned if there was anything going on in the room that the council needed to know about. 

“With some of the stuff that is going on with the town right now – maybe I should have knocked – but I still would’ve went in and asked the same question . . . He (Lewis) did not need to be in a private office that he does not no longer hold.”

Hughes advised that he didn’t believe her actions were “very professional” and that it appeared as if Teeter has “a lot of issues” that she needs to resolve. 

“I don’t know how the whole hierarchy of how things go, but for you to come in and make those demands, it’s none of your business,” Hughes said.

Teeter defended her actions and said it was her business and that she would do so again but would knock first in the future. 

“The town is my business,” Teeter said. “That’s what I was elected to do was to take care of the town.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Councilmember Sherrill Teeter listens to a constituent during the Call to the Public portion of the meeting.

In other town news: 

The council unanimously voted to hire a full-time employee for the public works department. 

The council also agreed to hire a town attorney to be present at council meetings and provide direction. Local attorney Grant Woods has been working for the town on a variety of issues and was recommended by Mayor Fletcher to be hired as the town attorney. Councilmember Sherrill Teeter said she believed the job should be posted and advertised and go through the same process being done to hire a new town manager. 

“Don’t we have to go through a hiring process,” Teeter asked. “We can’t just pick somebody and say we’re putting them on board. It doesn’t look good as a town.”

Walker, who has 40 years of experience practicing law and has represented GCEC for the past 11 years, was present at the meeting and said he had no qualms about the town going through whatever process it deems necessary. 

“A town attorney doesn’t represent any particular member of the board,” Walker said. “The town attorney represents the board.”

The board then unanimously approved to go through the hiring process for a town attorney.