PHOENIX — Faced with uncertainty over the availability of interim City Manager Eli Naffah, City Council members have decided to begin recruiting for applicants to replace him by year's end.
While city officials say they have no qualms with his job performance, with Naffah juggling everything from water rates to transportation and urban renewal, Naffah's limited schedule prompted the council decision to offer just a six-month contract extension.
The past three managers for the city of Phoenix have left under tumultuous circumstances.
Before Eli Naffah, Jane Turner was hired as interim city manager in March 2008. She remained through several contract extensions before resigning in February this year following allegations that two council members had tried to intimidate her and interfere with her role as the chief city administrator.
The city settled with Turner for a $60,000 severance in exchange for her agreement not to sue the city.
Before Turner, Joe Wrabek was dismissed as city manager after less than a year on the job and at the peak of personnel discussions that divided the City Council and resulted in the resignation of the police chief.
Interim City Manager Dale Shaddox held the post before Wrabek while attempting to help the city navigate budget shortfalls that generated heated discussions over a controversial surcharge.
Naffah was selected from among two dozen applicants at the end of January on an interim six-month basis.
Mayor Carlos DeBritto said council members recently met with Naffah to request that he work four days per week. But they determined that his role as the Crescent City Rotary Club president, through July 2013, and Naffah's obligations as an instructor at Eureka's College of the Redwoods, would prevent him from establishing a suitable schedule.
For his part, Naffah said he could work four days during three of four weeks per month, but not on specific days.
"They asked if I could work four days a week, but I couldn't work the same four days and the council prefers Monday through Thursday every week," Naffah said.
"I've got other things I'm doing right now so I could do three out of four weeks and be there four days but not the same days each week. So, at this point, I have a six-month extension."
By next July, Naffah said, he could commit to the four-day schedule.
Mayor Carlos DeBritto said the council opted to advertise the potential vacancy with the understanding that Naffah was "welcome to submit an application."
DeBritto said he wasn't sure if the council would attempt to conduct the hiring process itself, as it had when hiring Naffah, rather than employing a search firm.
"Last time, we did it pretty much by ourselves so we didn't spend a lot of money," said DeBritto.
"I don't know if they will want to do that again or not. We haven't quite decided but it might be a good idea."
With an election in November, Naffah said, council dynamics could change regardless of whether the city keeps him on board.
"We have an election in the fall so you don't ever know what the new council might want," Naffah said.
"They could figure out what they want in a city manager and it could be that they're OK with three days a week until I'm available (next summer) to be there for four."
Despite a busy six months dealing with everything from urban renewal and water rate discussions to Fern Valley Road and regional land-use planning, Naffah said he has enjoyed his work with the city.
He noted, "I'm happy with the city and I think the council is happy with me. That's why they want me more days."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance reporter living in Medford. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org