Please note: I just received confirmation a few minutes ago that Jon Froke will not be resigning and will remain the city’s Planning Director. Thanks to Interim City Manager Dick Bowers for reviewing this situation and reversing the former City Manager Fischer’s decision.
Why is Planning Director Jon Froke resigning suddenly under mysterious circumstances? Here are the circumstances known to date. First, be advised this is not about Ms. Barbara Lentz. She is an unwitting participant and it could have happened to anyone. She is in no way to be considered as having done anything wrong.
On October 28, 2014 Ms. Lentz was appointed to the General Plan Steering Committee representing the Sahuaro district (Councilmember Gary Sherwood’s district) by the city council. Typically if an appointee is present that evening that person takes the Loyalty Oath at the council meeting. When an appointee is not present the Loyalty Oath is taken at the first meeting of the committee to which the person has been appointed. Apparently Ms. Lentz was not present that evening. On December 3, 2014 Ms. Lentz attended her first General Plan Steering Committee meeting and took the Loyalty Oath at that time. A regular meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission was held on January 8, 2015. In the minutes of that meeting roll call identifies the following commissioners as present: Johnston, Hirsch, Lenox, Berryhill and Lentz. Ms. Lentz voted as a Planning Commissioner that evening. Without Lentz there would have been no quorum of the commission and the meeting would not have been held.
Now the mystery begins. How did Ms. Lentz sit as a Planning and Zoning Commissioner that evening? A review of council minutes for the two months preceding her sitting as a Planning Commissioner shows that city council did not appoint her to that position. How did she get there? City council minutes confirm her appointment as a General Plan Steering Committee member, not as a member of the Planning Commission.
There were three items on the Planning Commission’s agenda of January 8, 2015. One item, a Conditional Use Permit passed on a 3-2 vote with Ms. Lentz’ voting in the majority. The other two agenda items were passed unanimously by the 4 regularly seated Planning Commissioners.
Mr. Froke was not in attendance at the January 8, 2015 meeting. That is not unusual. If it were an agenda item of major significance or one that may be considered complex or contentious he would have been there. The items on that night’s agenda fit none of those criteria. In his stead Ms. Tabitha Perry of the Planning Department and Liaison to the Planning Commission was in attendance. It is also typical to have someone from the City Attorney’s office be in attendance to advise on any legal matters. Ms. Deborah Robberson, Chief Deputy City Attorney was in attendance.
Why didn’t Ms. Robberson and especially Ms. Perry, as the Planning Commission’s Liaison, raise an objection to Ms. Lentz’ seating that evening as a Planning Commissioner? Did they not know that Ms. Lentz had not been appointed a commissioner? If they did not know, why not? Ms. Perry as the Planning Commission’s Liaison is expected to be thoroughly conversant with all areas surrounding the Planning Commission. How could she not be aware that Ms. Lentz was not appointed by city council as a Planning Commissioner?
From here on the information is sketchy. It seems that former City Manager Fischer had an investigation into the whole matter which appears to have resulted in the resignation of Planning Director Jon Froke and the appointment of…you guessed it…Ms. Tabatha Perry as Acting. The very same Tabatha Perry who apparently didn’t have a clue as Liaison for one of her areas of responsibility. The first question that comes to mind is, did Councilmember Sherwood influence or urge former City Manager Fischer to ask for Mr. Froke’s resignation? Sherwood appears to have been quite unhappy with Froke’s performance on some of his pet issues. None of this makes any sense right now. If it was Fischer’s desire that a Director take the fall, shouldn’t Michael Bailey, the City Attorney, have received the same investigative treatment? After all, his designee, Ms. Robberson, was also present at this weird Planning Commission meeting and did nothing.
Jon Froke has been the consummate professional and a loyal employee of the city for many years. He listens…not just to the developers with a project but to the concerns of residents and does his best to balance both points of view. I will be the first to admit that I do not know “the rest of the story.” I would hope that Interim City Manager Dick Bowers would review the entire situation and that his findings would result in a return of Mr. Froke to his position of Director of Planning for the City of Glendale. It appears from the outside looking in, that an injustice has occurred and only Mr. Bowers can resolve it.
© Joyce Clark, 2015
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