Weeks of political squabbling among Chandler City Council members has riled residents to take their elected leaders “to the woodshed.”
“Sometimes it really seems like you are all acting like children,” resident Michelle Daly told them during a council meeting Thursday just before reciting a list of rules from the book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”
About 10 people blasted the council during the public comment portion of the meeting. The scoldings followed the official launch of a recall effort aimed at two council members earlier in the day, and a flurry of e-mails and phone calls from upset residents to council members in the recent weeks.
Some residents cautioned about the impact the council’s attitude could have on the city. Resident Kirk Erickson said at Thursday’s meeting that he was concerned the current political climate would “become an embarrassment to potential employers, businesses and visitors.”
Bette Phillips, chairwoman for the committee formed to push a recall of Councilmen Martin Sepulveda and Matt Orlando, said her group would begin immediately to collect the 3,501 signatures needed to put the recall on the November ballot.
“Today we begin the healing process,” she said.
But several residents, in- cluding two former mayors, said they oppose the recall even though they agree the council’s infighting has to stop.
“For these folks thinking they’re in a healing process, they’ve got to be nuts,” former Mayor Jim Patterson said.
Patterson, a past business partner of Sepulveda, told council members they have too much work to do to continue “the divisive activity that’s going on.”
He said a recall would “drive a stake right through the heart of the community.”
The divisiveness, speakers said, has come out most recently over the forced resignation of City Manager Mark Pentz, whose last day on the job was Friday.
All seven council members listened quietly as residents vented their frustrations over political infighting between the council’s dueling factions of Mayor Boyd Dunn and Councilmen Lowell Huggins and Bob Caccamo versus Vice Mayor Phill Westbrooks and council members Sepulveda, Donna Wallace and Orlando.
“I think we were all taken to the woodshed tonight,” Orlando said later in the Thursday meeting.
The council voted 5-2 on April 11 to accept a separation agreement brokered by Pentz’s personal attorney after it became clear there were four council members ready to fire the city manager after a nine-hour job review held in public at Pentz’s request.
Dunn, who has been a vocal supporter of Pentz, voted in favor of the agreement. He later said he did it to ensure Pentz received a fair deal and to keep the city out of court.
Sepulveda and Orlando were two of Pentz’s four detractors on the council. The terms of the other two, Westbrooks and Wallace, will expire in June and both are ineligible to run for re-election due to term limits.
Dunn, along with Huggins and Caccamo, have been critical of their fellow council members in numerous news stories, columns they’ve submitted to newspapers and emails to residents. Huggins even told one resident how to contact the group behind the recall in an e-mail last week.
“The honest to goodness low point would be that voters learn that Chandler City Council members are involved and encouraging the recall of fellow council members,” resident Norm Haskett said.