Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The Pima Town Council voted 3-2 to keep Sean Lewis as town manager – according to official town minutes. However, Vice-Mayor Dale Rogers actually voted against when his vote was tabulated as being for the motion.
By Jon Johnson
PIMA – The saga involving Pima Town Manager Sean Lewis should have been settled at the Pima Town Council’s Tuesday night meeting. And it was, but it also wasn’t.
The council went into executive session during the meeting, and after a lengthy discussion reemerged into an open meeting. At that time, Mayor C.B. Fletcher asked if there were any motions.
Councilmember Deborah Barr moved the council retain Lewis as town manager and assign the mayor to be in charge of doling out proper disciplinary action for an issue with undocumented credit card charges. After some time, Vice-Mayor Dale Rogers seconded the motion.
Mayor Fletcher then asked for a vote, in which Barr and Fletcher voted in the affirmative while council members Sherrill Teeter and Lucas Hoopes voted against. In a video of the vote taken by the Gila Herald, Vice-Mayor Rogers can be seen and heard quietly voting against the motion. However, Mayor Fletcher believed he had heard Rogers vote for the motion and announced it had carried by a 3-2 vote. At that time, nobody corrected the mayor, and it went into the meeting’s minutes as having carried by a 3-2 vote even though it appears to might have been 3-2 against.
According to Lewis, both Fletcher and Barr – who were sitting on either side of Rogers – believed they heard Rogers answer in the affirmative to the motion and suggest he may have voted twice.
The following day, Rogers reportedly told council members, the mayor, and Lewis that he had voted against the motion. Lewis told the Gila Herald that when he spoke to Rogers he told him if he really wanted him gone he would help the council amend the minutes to reflect his vote. However, without an additional vote by the council to terminate, amending the minutes would only mean there would be no disciplinary action from the mayor as no other motion was made during the meeting except to adjourn. That means, the council would have come out of the executive session and taken no action against Lewis. After the confusion came to light, Rogers could not immediately be reached for comment.
On Wednesday, Mayor Fletcher told the Gila Herald that as far as he is concerned Lewis is the town manager for Pima and that is how it will remain unless the council pursues further action than it already has.
“He (Lewis) did some things that are not proper, but he has made restitution and everything has been cleared and justified,” Fletcher said.
While the full audit has yet to be presented to the council, Fletcher said the auditor told him the audit went well and Fletcher called it “the best audit we’ve ever had.”
The concern from the council stemmed from some missing documentation regarding Lewis’ town credit card that came up in an annual town audit after a council member requested the auditor perform an in-depth review of Lewis’ town credit card purchases. The card is used by more employees than just Lewis and also has auto-pay bills for the town, however, Lewis admitted making a mistake by not documenting everything on the receipts, such as town business lunches without advising who was eating and why it was a business lunch.
“It was a myriad of missing documentation,” Lewis said.
Most of the documentation has been tracked down and corrected, however, there was still an amount of about $1,200 that was unaccounted for. Lewis then personally paid the town for the outstanding amount while admitting no wrongdoing other than not properly documenting the charges.
“A lot of it was just pure laziness on my part,” Lewis said. He gave an example of when he and the mayor and vice-mayor attended an annual conference for the League of Arizona Cities and Towns and the receipts for the hotel for the group and some meal receipts were not properly documented.
Lewis had previously given a verbal resignation when an audit showed the credit card purchase discrepancies and posted the position as available on the League of Arizona Cities and Town’s website. The post has since been removed and Lewis has rescinded his verbal resignation.
Lewis said he takes full responsibility for his errors in documenting the credit card purchases and has taken steps to make sure such mistakes don’t take place again in the future.
In addition to his duties as town manager, Lewis has been a hands-on employee in a number of facets, including keeping the sewer operations running smoothly, performing building permit inspections, and even digging graves out at the Pima Cemetery due to loss of labor because of the pandemic. The town is also currently involved in a water protection grant process Lewis is working on, the cleaning of about three miles of Ash Creek, multiple new construction permits, a land sale in the industrial park helped form by Lewis, and new businesses Lewis and Fletcher are working on bringing to town.
Lewis began his tenure at Pima in 2004 as a heavy equipment operator in the Public Works division and was soon trained and certified on dealing with the swimming pool and the town’s sewer system.
During his nine-year stay in Public Works, he also became the Planning and Zoning administrator.
Lewis took a sojourn to be a heavy equipment operator for Freeport McMoRan Inc. for four years, but returned to the town in late 2016 as the Planning and Zoning administrator and then back into Public Works, handling the sewer, the pool, highways, streets, parks, and more.
When the position of town manager opened, Lewis was placed as the interim manager and after a search was selected to officially become the town manager on July 1, 2017, and recently earned a degree from Arizona State University in government management
“We have work to do, and that’s what I’m excited about,” Lewis told the Gila Herald on Tuesday night. “I’m going to be able to go to sleep tonight and come to work tomorrow. And I look forward to that because for two months I’ve come to work but without the sleep.”
“We’ve talked about it for too long,” Lewis said. “It’s going on two months. It’s been horrible for my family; my wife, my kid hears rumors all the way in Ohio. It’s been brutal. Now it’s done with and we can move on.”
That is, unless the council brings the issue back in yet another meeting.