Phoenix council member resigns

PHOENIX — With resignation threats by the city's mayor and at least one other council member in recent months, it was the council's newest inductee who announced her resignation Wednesday following the latest in months of turmoil.

Councilwoman Diane Stewart announced her resignation Wednesday to Mayor Carlos DeBritto. Contacted by the Mail Tribune, Stewart said her reasons for leaving the council were her lack of "enough energy" to keep up with necessary requirements of a council person in a small city.

Appointed to the council in September, Stewart's five months have been marked by a host of issues that called for late-night meetings, closed sessions and heated debate among council members and city personnel.

"I'll just say that I am retiring because I felt that it was a little taxing on my energy and that I wish the council the very, very smoothest and best of things ahead," Stewart said Thursday. "I'm prepared to support them in any way I possibly can.

"I am really hopeful that this council, all made up of really good people, will have the entire support of the community in moving forward at this time."

In her first week in office, Stewart watched residents shoot down a controversial surcharge to prop up an ailing city budget, got up to speed on hotly contested plans to rebuild the failing Fern Valley interchange and discussed budget constraints that led the city to dissolve its fire department and contract with the local fire district.

Recent months' angst included an investigation into ethics concerns brought by police Chief Kurt Barthel and Councilman Gary Reed's revelation that City Manager Joe Wrabek and City Recorder Betty Smith were the source of Barthel's concerns regarding ethics and truthfulness. No wrongdoing was found, but Barthel has since resigned.

Tuesday night, council members voted on a job change for Wrabek, reportedly at his request, from city management to city planning until his contract expires in June.

While disappointed to see Stewart leave, DeBritto said he could understand her frustration.

"We've certainly had a lot of issues we had to deal with, and maybe she found it too stressful," said DeBritto. "I haven't seen her written resignation so I don't know what reason she's given. I think we can safely assume we've all felt quite a bit of stress recently."

Asked if things would settle down for the council, DeBritto responded, "They're gonna have to. We've got to get these issues resolved and put them behind us and move forward for the best interest of the city."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at

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