Former Richland city manager to temporarily serve Sunnyside

Yakima Herald-RepublicMarch 22, 2013 

SUNNYSIDE -- Richland’s former city manager has been tapped to serve as a temporary leader in Sunnyside.

The Sunnyside City Council this week approved a contract with John Darrington to serve as the interim city manager of the community that has seen its share of turnover at the top.

Council members voted 4-0 in favor of the contract after about 20 minutes of closed-door discussions about Darrington’s qualifications. Councilman Don Vlieger was absent, but supported the hiring. Two other positions on the council are vacant.

Darrington, 66, served as the city manager of Richland from 2001-07. The city will pay him $2,660 per week, plus $40 for each day he drives to City Hall from his home in Richland.

Darrington also is a senior vice president of Colin Baenziger and Associates, a Florida-based municipal consulting firm that could offer Sunnyside a discount on leading the search for a permanent manager, Mayor Jim Restucci said.

Restucci said he hopes the city will have a new manager within four months.

The Harvard-educated Darrington said finding candidates will be a challenge for a city that has had five managers since 1998. Some have lasted less than two years.

“I think we have to be very straightforward and upfront with the candidates” about the history, Darrington said.

The city has not had a permanent manager for about a year when Mark Gervasi retired after only 18 months on the job. The city council then hired Frank Sweet, the former Selah city supervisor, as an interim replacement.

In August, they agreed to negotiate a permanent contract with him but changed their minds the next day when he was arrested for allegedly stealing a laptop and destroying public records in Selah. He has been charged in Yakima County Superior Court.

The council unanimously agreed to keep Sweet as an interim manager during his legal battle, but last month fired him for his handling of conflict with popular Deputy Police Chief Phil Schenck.

Fire Chief Aaron Markham agreed to manage the city as a stopgap measure, but was not interested in the long-term position.

Darrington’s only competition for the interim post was Stan McNutt of St. Maries, Idaho, who also does municipal consulting work.

Next, the city will fill two vacant council positions Monday night. It has a total of five candidates for the two spots.

The council will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. at the Sunnyside Law and Justice Center, 401 Homer St., and discuss candidate qualifications behind closed doors. But the council will vote on the candidates in public, Restucci said.

The city’s regular meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.

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