BISBEE — After some testy exchanges Tuesday, the mayor and city council voted to remove Jon Sky from the Design Review Board due to a court plea of no contest on a felony charge.
Mayor David Smith, who appointed Sky to the DRB last year over threats of recall due to past felony convictions, explained Sky pleaded no contest to a charge of an attempted aggravated assault from July 2019 and the judge accepted the plea. Sky awaits sentencing, which can be a fine, probation, or jail time.
Sky was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for the July 4 incident in which police reported Sky attempted to run over a parking attendant with his white pickup and tried to put his hands on the woman’s throat, but shoved her instead. Sky pleaded no contest to the felony charge.
City Attorney James Ledbetter told the council, “The plea is the equivalent of a guilty plea.”
Under state law, a person can be removed if he or she has compromised the trust of the public, he continued. In most cases, people in such circumstances resign prior to removal.
Ledbetter also brought up the failure of Sky to note his two prior felony convictions on his DRB application. Sky wrote N/A, meaning nonapplicable, which Ledbetter questioned.
Sky, a native of Bisbee and an unlicensed contractor who works on old homes, asked the council to let him keep his seat on the DRB as his knowledge of the city is beneficial to the board.
Councilwomen Joni Giacomino and Anna Cline questioned the rationality of removing him and said they saw him as an important person to be on the DRB. Both said they would prefer waiting until the judge sentences him to take action.
Giacomino asked why a town who fights state law would now follow it.
“It’s disturbing since he did a good job,” she said. “No where in the city code or city charter does it say a person with a felony cannot serve.”
Cline said, “Why now, if the case is not complete? It’s up in the air. When he is sentenced, I hope the court takes into consideration his work for the city. He paid his debt to society.”
Smith replied, “It is not up in the air. He pleaded no contest, which the judge accepts as guilty.”
Giacomino criticized the removal as “premature.”
Councilman Louis Pawlik agreed with Smith and Ledbetter and stated, “Membership is not a right, but a privilege. Public trust brings responsibility for ethical behavior. Mr. Sky did not live up to his responsibilities. He should have resigned. The mayor gave him a vote of no confidence and he should be removed in the best interest of the city.”
Council members Bill Higgins and Joan Hansen agreed with Smith and Pawlik and all cast votes to remove Sky. Giacomino and Cline voted against his removal. Councilwoman Leslie Johns was absent.
The matter of a new city hall also led to a lengthy discussion as Smith pointed out, with Pawlik and Higgins in agreement, the city cannot afford to build a two-story building on the site of the burned-out city hall. An estimate brought the total to over $2 million, which is more than the remaining insurance payout can cover.
Pawlik called the former site “a money pit.”
Smith suggested looking for a new site for city hall and wanted to direct staff to begin a search.
Higgins noted residents in Warren talked to him and wanted the burned out “eyesore” to be torn down.
During the call to the public, architect Al Hopper, who has been working with the city on a new building, submitted plans for a new, single-story building on a lot at the corner of Taylor and Highway 92. He projected the cost of $1.9 million for the building and lighted parking lot which would “be nice for the community and the staff.”
Cline pointed out, “Interesting. Mr. Hopper comes up with alternate plans. It seems you moved forward with this.”
She went to say another move would be hard on the staff and maybe the council should consider staying in the current Tovreaville Road location, and Giacomino agreed.
Giacomino asked, “Why not just put the money here and fix this place? And what about grants to fix the old city hall? There are grants out there.”
Smith asked from where and received no definitive response.
Hansen agreed with looking at new locations, and at renovating the current facilities, but did not want the old city hall location to be forgotten.
Since the matter was only for discussion, there was no vote taken, only direction given to staff to look into other locations.