Former Oro Valley Town Manager David Andrews and former Councilwoman Salette Latas were married on Saturday, June 12 at Lakeside Weddings and Events in Las Vegas, Nev.
Andrews worked for the town for nearly two decades, his final three years as town manager, before the former town council pressured him to resign in September 2009. Latas was elected to the council in 2008 and resigned two years into her first term in April 2010, citing financial circumstances.
Some people expressed shock at the nuptials, some maintained steadfast support for Andrews, and others said the union appears to validate the decision to oust the former manager.
"It certainly gives a lot of credibility back to the council that was taken from them unfairly when they took so much abuse from people in the town," said Terry Parish, a former Oro Valley Town Council member. "Unfortunately, some of that came from council member Latas herself."
In the wake of Andrews' departure, letters to the editor expressed support for Andrews and took to task council members Paula Abbott, K.C. Carter, Al Kunisch and then-Mayor Paul Loomis, who voted to accept the resignation. Oro Valley resident Art Segal filed a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General's Office, suggesting elected officials violated open meetings law in the Andrews situation. The claim remains under investigation.
When news of the recent wedding was posted on a local blog Segal operates, numerous residents posted on-line comments. Those comments were quickly deleted, however, following a statement Latas posted to the site.
"I'm concerned about some of the comments on the blog being both false and defamatory. In particular, any implication that there was any improper relationship between me and David while he was Town Manager of Oro Valley are untrue and defamatory," Latas wrote. "We do have legal advice as to how to pursue the identities of those responsible for the libelous comments and how to take action against them."
The Explorer unsuccessfully attempted to reach Andrews via e-mail and phone through his office in Paradise Valley, the Phoenix suburb where he has since March worked as finance director. The Explorer does not have contact information for Latas.
Parish believes the vocal defenses of Andrews at the time of his departure have lost credibility.
"It shows the council had the best interest of the town, while others' interests were more self-serving," Parish said.
Councilman Bill Garner, who along with current Councilman Barry Gillaspie and Latas supported Andrews, said the recent wedding hasn't changed his position.
"I'm standing by what I said," Garner said, emphasizing there's no evidence that Andrews and Latas were involved in a romantic relationship while both were with the town.
"If that was the case, we would have fired the man on grounds of ethics," Garner said. "The people on council at the time had every opportunity to handle it in the backroom."
A relationship between Andrews and Latas would have been a violation of town personnel polices forbidding nepotism. "If a supervisory responsibility is involved, then the affected employees will determine which of them will transfer or resign in order to ensure compliance with this policy," reads section 2 of the nepotism policy. Because the manager works directly for the council, each of the seven-member board is considered the manager's boss.
"I was stunned when I heard the news," former Councilman Carter said when asked about the recent wedding. He was part of the council majority that voted to accept Andrews' resignation. No public explanation was provided why the council majority, led by Loomis, wanted Andrews out.
The week before, the council had conducted Andrews' annual performance evaluation. Issues with his performance were not publicly raised, and Andrews' contract was given default renewal.
Whatever tensions lie simmering underneath came boiling to the surface at a raucous and emotion-filled public meeting when Andrews was forced out.
The council called a special session for Sept. 23, 2009, with one item on the agenda: David Andrews' contract. Numerous residents implored the council not to accept the manager's resignation. Accusations of collusion among council members and violations of open meetings law were lobbed. Council members lashed out at one another.
Latas, in particular, scolded members Carter and Kunisch in open session that night for speaking with The Explorer about the issue while the council was at recess. Even Andrews, known for maintaining a calm persona, momentarily lost his cool. After the final vote, he approached Carter and pointing his finger shouted: "You stay off my property!"
Loomis declined to comment for this story. Carter said he voted to accept Andrews' resignation based on his job performance.
"It should have been done sooner," Carter said.
Former Councilwoman Helen Dankwerth, who was not on the council that forced out Andrews, was at the time critical of the vagueness and failure to provide a clear rationale for forcing out Andrews.
"They were trying to get out from under a potentially bad situation," Dankwerth now says of the council. "I think at the time the action that was taken it was to protect David in his future job offers."
Dankwerth also said revisiting the issue today doesn't serve the interests of the public, but acknowledged the saga cost the town in numerous ways.
"There's no question that they paid for it monetarily," Dankwerth said. "It caused a further schism in the town and was detrimental."
Andrews was paid $144,000 in severance after he resigned.
None of the elected officials who voted to accept Andrews' resignation remain in office. Abbott and Kunisch resigned their positions. Carter and Loomis both lost in their bids for re-election. Carter told The Explorer the issue almost certainly contributed to his loss in the 2010 election.
At least two candidates for town council cited Andrews' treatment as the reason they chose to run. Mayoral candidate Mike Zinkin, who along with now-Mayor Satish Hiremath beat out Loomis in the March primary, wrote in his campaign material that he decided to run after Andrews was released.
"It was after this action that I changed my mind and decided to oppose Paul Loomis in his quest for yet another term as Mayor," Zinkin wrote.
Former council candidate Don Emmons similarly cited Andrews' abrupt departure as his motivation to run. Emmons dropped out of the race following the primary election.