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City Council holds Saturday session in wake of city manager termination

The Sunnyside City Council this past Saturday agreed to outsource its legal and some bookkeeping needs to private firms.

The move is a necessity according to Scott Staples, Grandview city administrator and consultant to the Sunnyside City Council.

"Your staffing situation is such that you need help," Staples told council.

The "staffing situation" arose this past Tuesday when the council voted 4-2 to fire City Manager Eric Swansen. In response, City Attorney Mark Kunkler and Finance Director Jordan Arreola resigned that same evening.

The need is urgent because Arreola's last day on the job was essentially Tuesday when she turned in her resignation. Kunkler cleaned out his office on Friday.

The firing and staff defections led to a rare Saturday workshop to pick up the pieces.

Council agreed with Staples that legal issues and the upcoming budget will have to be handled by firms which specialize in providing temporary specialists.

Interim City Manager Jim Bridges, who is the public works director, will have consulting assistance from Staples on a regular - perhaps daily - basis.

Staples' consulting services are covered in the interlocal agreement between Prosser, Sunnyside and Grandview. The costs for his services will be billed to Sunnyside by the city of Grandview.

Council's next steps will be to have the outsourcing firms - known as "range riders" - appear at a workshop or city council meeting to present their services.

Staples said the companies often employ retired government advisors who are available to serve on-site for two or three month assignments.

In other discussion points last Saturday:

- Council agreed to hire a city manager before hiring a new finance director. One of the four finalists from last year's hiring of Swansen was Mark Roath, city manager of McAlester, Okla. Council confirmed that he has offered to assist during the transition period.

That was part of a larger discussion in which some council members, like Theresa Hancock and mayor pro tem Jim Restucci, wanted to look first to last year's finalists. Other council members, like Jesse Hernandez Jr. and Tom Gehlen, wanted to open up the selection process again.

In other discussion matters this past Saturday:

- Council reviewed a council agenda process that would set firmer limits on when agenda items can be submitted. There was also a discussion on city staff providing a record of responses to council requests.

- Restucci asked council to consider having Sunnyside's next city attorney serve on an appointed basis, instead of hiring the person as a city employee.

- A workshop was considered to improve morale and teamwork for council and staff members.

- Council agreed to work on a list of city priorities and have the results available for a budget retreat to be held sometime after mid-July.

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