Phoenix official receives transfer

PHOENIX — Pending a contract with an interim replacement, Joe Wrabek will be removed as city manager and transferred to the planning department — at least through the end of his employment contract, which expires in June.

The Tuesday night decision by the Phoenix City Council came after a former mayor criticized the decision, and led to at least two council members at odds with the remaining members.

"I do not agree with what you did. I think you are totally wrong," former mayor Darrell Paxton told the council.

"If you have someone who's not doing the job, you don't hang on to them until you find another one. If you have someone not doing one job, why in the hell would you give them another job?"

Following an hour-long executive session, council members unanimously agreed to remove Wrabek as city manager upon arrival of an interim replacement.

A subsequent motion to appoint Wrabek as city planner was favored by council members Bruce Sophie, Diane Stewart, Mike McKey and Mike Stitt. Council members Terry Helfrich and Gary Reed voted against the decision.

After the meeting, Reed said "disappointment is not a strong enough word to describe how I feel of what this council chose to do tonight."

Reed said he planned to take the next two weeks to decide whether he would remain on the council.

The vote came at the end of a series of meetings held since October to review personnel problems that centered on a dispute between police Chief Kurt Barthel, who recently resigned, city recorder Betty Smith and Wrabek.

Recent meetings revealed an investigation had taken place and that, according to Reed, the council deemed that Wrabek had not properly managed city employees. Reed reported, outside executive session, that this had caused Barthel to leave the city.

Barthel has confirmed Reed''s descrption of the chain of events, but declined to discuss the matter further. Barthel left the city last week, leaving Lt. Derek Bowker in charge of the police.

"The city of Phoenix has lost a good police chief and at this point no one has been held accountable," Reed said.

Wrabek had stated his desire to change jobs had nothing to do with recent events; rather, he said it reflected his preference, since he had applied for a city planning position more than a year ago. Wrabek said he agreed to become interim city manager at the request of former manager Dale Shaddox.

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

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