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Story Time

Sacrificial lamb?

Why is it I feel I've just witnessed a sacrificial lamb being slaughtered on a makeshift altar? Actually, it feels more like I've seen a goat getting stabbed in the back, a scapegoat, if you will.

I made contact with Bud Schatz Thursday evening. Bud is the former City of Sunnyside finance director. After 20-plus years of serving the city faithfully, Bud now finds himself out of a job.

I asked Bud why he was told his services were no longer required. As expected, he informed me he couldn't elaborate on his departure from city hall. All such inquiries, he said, should be directed to a law firm in Wenatchee.

I telephoned those attorneys this morning. Again, as expected, I wasn't given any information. Not surprising, considering that whenever a wrongful termination lawsuit is about to be filed it is very rare to get anyone to speak openly and on the record.

My intentions were to call City Manager Bob Stockwell at his office this morning to get his "official" take on the matter. But just before dialing, I remembered that Stockwell has shut down city hall on Fridays. No sense in calling that number, I thought.

That leaves one to only wonder at what transpired to cause Mr. Schatz to lose his job.

We all know that his departure stems from the issue of privatizing the city's water and wastewater systems. We all know that the original figures worked up, which reflected about a quarter of a million dollars a year savings by going with a private company, were vastly different from the figures Mr. Schatz tallied last week just before our city council was ready to give a contract to Veolia Water. By Mr. Schatz's late inning computations, the city would have saved only about $25,000 a year by privatizing.

What isn't clear is, who worked up the original set of figures that showed such a dramatic savings for the city? We've been led to believe that Mr. Schatz was solely responsible for those numbers.

Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't.

What I keep coming back to, in my mind, is why would our city manager fully endorse, heartily recommend that Sunnyside contract out with Veolia Water if he hadn't personally sat down and gone through any and all figures beforehand? My understanding is that Mr. Stockwell is a financial whiz. Surely, before recommending to our city council that it approve a contract with Veolia Water totaling well over $1 million a year, Mr. Stockwell would have used his financial expertise to comb through any and all figures.

Me, personally, if I was putting my name to something where I was recommending to my bosses that they spend over a million dollars a year, I'd make pretty dawg-gone certain that all of the homework had been completed. Doesn't sound to me like that was the case in this instance.

I want to reiterate. We (the public) can only wonder at what has transpired, since no one is doing much talking.

But since we're speculating here, I have to believe Mr. Schatz has been led to the altar, like a goat with a rope wrapped around his neck.

I base this belief on what Bud has accomplished for this city. When he began work here, he was chiefly responsible for pulling the city out of debt, out of the red. Bud is a frugal person, and that was reflected over the past 20-some years by his moves to stockpile more than $10 million in reserves. Up until a couple of years ago, no city in the Yakima Valley could boast of being in such good financial shape as Sunnyside. Few will argue that the reason for that was Bud Schatz.

It's a crying shame that Bud is departing our city this way. He has served Sunnyside well. He doesn't deserve the treatment he's received.

I also believe it's a shame that more people aren't stepping up to the plate in his defense. Especially some of those who serve on the city council, who personally know what Bud Schatz has meant to this city.

To them, all I can say is enjoy your barbecued lamb when all is said and done.

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