Within minutes of being sworn in, the new Chandler City Council voted Thursday to offer to rehire ousted City Manager Mark Pentz.
The council, which included newcomers Trinity Donovan and Jeff Weninger, voted 5-2 on Thursday to allow Mayor Boyd Dunn to negotiate a contract with Pentz to be approved by council members June 22.
Councilmen Martin Sepulveda and Matt Orlando voted against the move, calling it premature and backward to begin negotiating with Pentz right away.
Sepulveda said Pentz has attained “rock-star status” in recent months and questioned the need to rush into negotiations with the former city manager, who has said repeatedly he has no immediate plans to leave Chandler.
Sepulveda also said he didn’t understand why his fellow council members voted in May to start searching for candidates to fill the city manager position. He also acknowledged that Pentz likely would be a top candidate for his old job if he chose to apply.
Donovan said she would expect that if Pentz returns, he’ll forgo at least some of the money and benefits coming to him as part of his separation agreement with the city.
Pentz has previously stated he is interested in discussing his options with the council.
Pentz left his job April 30, three weeks after a nine-hour job review where four council members made it clear they were ready to fire him.
Councilman Bob Caccamo voiced strong criticism after the council voted on a separation agreement.
The agreement gave Pentz 15 months of severance pay, plus health and vehicle benefits, in exchange for his resignation and his promise not to sue the city. The agreement will cost Chandler nearly $260,000, according to city estimates.
Caccamo has referred to Pentz’s forced departure as the “political whim of an arrogant lame-duck majority.”
Dunn voted to accept the separation agreement, even though he was supportive of Pentz both before and after the job review. He has said his vote was aimed at ensuring the best deal for Pentz.
Of Pentz’s four detractors on the council, two left office Thursday night. The other two, Sepulveda and Orlando, are facing a recall effort launched after Pentz’s departure.
Sepulveda had criticized Pentz for how he handled a gas-to-energy system and a recommendation against having the city join Mesa’s Williams Gateway Airport Authority.
Orlando had raised concerns over reports that Pentz yelled at citizens and a city employee.
In other business, the council also voted 5-2 to appoint Councilman Lowell Huggins to replace outgoing Vice Mayor Phill Westbrooks. Sepulveda and Orlando voted against the move.