Using former City Attorney David Pennartz’s old letterhead, the Scottsdale Attorney’s Office issued a letter claiming the city did nothing wrong when it hired Pennartz back for contracts that could earn him as much as $80,000.
Donna Bronski, a deputy city attorney who worked for Pennartz, issued a letter Sept. 9 saying her office "respectfully disagrees’’ with a south Scottsdale resident group’s contention the City Council violated procedure when it hired Pennartz.
Rita Saunders-Hawranek of the Scottsdale Coalition demanded in an August letter the council rectify the "blatant abuse’’ involving Pennartz or it would seek a legal alternative.
Saunders-Hawranek, a former attorney, argued that Pennartz should have known he needed full council approval when he and Mayor Mary Manross changed the terms of his employment. She alleged the city violated its procurement code, which mandates that it solicit bids for professional services, and that when wanting to avoid bids, the city must show "no reasonable alternative’’ sources exist. She could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
"We certainly considered following the process of interviewing at least three firms, but rejected it in light of the request to consider hiring Mr. Pennartz because of his intimate knowledge of certain controversial and difficult matters,’’ Bronski wrote.
The council voted Aug. 25 to approve the contracts. One totaled $50,000 for Los Arcos Town Project litigation involving the city’s redevelopment agreement for the largest sales-tax subsidy in city history. The second contract, for $30,000, initially called for Pennartz’s "personal knowledge’’ to deal with the Scottsdale Waterfront project and city personnel issues. However, interim City Attorney Brad Woodford will handle the Wa t erfront project. Pennartz, for the same $30,000, will handle only the personnel issues, which involve fired Police Chief Doug Bartosh and fired police legal adviser Johnny Guthrie.
"If the city attorney’s office were to interview other firms, knowing that the city wanted to hire someone with the knowledge that only Mr. Pennartz possesses, that would be a sham,’’ Bronski wrote. "It would not be fair and equitable treatment.’’
Manross allowed Pennartz to cut his office hours to 2 1 /2 days per week while still serving as the city’s lead attorney after he submitted his resignation March 31. He also was allowed to start a private law practice. His last day was Aug. 15. Manross said she asked Pennartz to inform the council, but no members said they were aware of the change.
The $80,000 would amount to nearly 64 percent of Pennartz’s former annual salary of $125,316.
The mayor also said she did not violate any city laws.