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Phoenix returns to Wrabek issue

PHOENIX — City Council members plan to revisit a recent decision to move City Manager Joe Wrabek to the planning department as soon as an interim city manager is hired.

At the same meeting, they'll discuss a potential candidate for the interim position, one bringing 12 years of experience, and formally accept resignation of Councilwoman Diane Stewart, who announced her decision last week.

Mayor Carlos DeBritto said council members hope to resolve recent personnel issues and move forward as soon as possible.

DeBritto declined to discuss the details of why the council would revisit the Wrabek decision, other than to say, "The agenda item means just what it says. We're going to reconsider the decision to move him to planning."

Some city officials claim the decision to move Wrabeck to planning was his own, though Councilman Gary Reed, during a heated discussion among the council recently, told the audience that the council wanted Wrabek removed from his management role because of failure to manage and ethics concerns.

The recent turmoil and conflicts at City Hall resulted in the resignation of police Chief Kurt Barthel, who left a supervisory position with the local Oregon State Police office to rebuild the department following the arrest of former Chief Bob Kershaw. Barthel resigned over a personnel issue and ethics involving Wrabek and City Recorder Betty Smith.

Council members Stewart, Mike Stitt, Mike McKey and Bruce Sophie opted to let Wrabek change roles. Council members Reed and Terry Helfrich opposed the idea.

Just days after Stewart announced she'd resign, DeBritto said the council would revisit the decision to hire Wrabek as a planner.

Sophie and Stitt declined further comment pending today's meeting.

Reed said he felt the council had made a decision regarding the issue and, whatever the outcome, needed to move forward. Reed said he was confused as to why the council would revisit a week-old decision, but had not been privy to recent conversations.

"Mayor DeBritto and Council President Sophie do a lot of behind the scenes work and let us know later. so I guess we will have to wait and find out at the same time," he said, declining further comment.

Stitt, who also voiced frustration with the nature of recent council meetings, said he still supported keeping Wrabek on board as a planner and was unaware of a need for another discussion on the matter.

As it stands, city officials have not announced plans to recruit for a police chief. Lt. Derek Bowker is currently overseeing day-to-day operations of the department.

The meeting begins at 6:40 p.m. tonight following a brief session of the city's Urban Renewal Agency.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.