Wapato Mayor refuses to step down, council passes sweeping changes

Wapato Mayor refuses to step down, council passes sweeping changes

Amid calls for her removal as Wapato Mayor from citizens and council members, Dora Alvarez-Roa responded, simply: “No.”

“This really goes to show your true, complete ethics and moral character, Dora: you have none,” council member and mayoral candidate Keith Workman said at a Wapato City Council meeting Wednesday night. “Take your last shred of dignity and move on.”

Alvarez-Roa repeatedly attempted to end the council meeting, looking at the time on her phone and motioning to adjourn, with the silence of the council meaning the meeting would continue.

The calls for her resignation stem from a series of sometimes unethical, sometimes illegal decisions made by Alvarez-Roa and city staff since she took over as mayor in September.

Council members pointed to concerns about thousands of dollars spent by former Wapato City Administrator Juan Orozco on a city credit card that council never approved.

When the council asked Alvarez-Roa about the expenses, she told them to submit a public records request to see the information. Workman said the council was entitled to that information and didn’t need to fill out a public records request.

Alvarez-Roa was also put on the spot by members of the public to explain the firing of Wapato Police Chief Dominic Rizzi, who was notably absent at Wednesday’s meeting.

“There were some things that I did for the safety of the community,” Alvarez-Roa said about why she fired Rizzi. Sgt. Michael Campos has been appointed as interim chief in his absence.

When Alvarez-Roa was pressed on the issue, she said it was because the city needed a chief that was more active in the community.

Rizzi was hired as a police consultant in November, days after being terminated as Yakima Police Chief. He was named Wapato police chief in February.

Council members also approved several lawsuit settlements and passed a series of ordinances to deal with the city’s financial situation, which multiple city officials called a disaster.

The changes came the day after preliminary election results left a majority of the sitting council effectively eliminated from the general election ballot.

Some of the changes include:

Financial crisis: The Wapato City Council passed an ordinance declaring a financial emergency in the city. In the ordinance, council members say while they’ve requested information about the city’s revenue, expenditures and liabilities several times, but city staff did not provide adequate documentation for the requests.
Hiring and spending freeze: The city has put a freeze on hiring. If the mayor wants to fill a vacant position, she can bring it to the council for review.
Eliminating positions: The council voted to eliminate the city administrator position previously created and held by Orozco, calling it “unneccesary.” Effective as of Aug. 16, the city will eliminate all temporary, part-time or seasonal staff, with the exception of the Wapato Fire Department. Pool employees falling under that category will be eliminated as of Sept. 31, when the city will shut the pool down.
Shutting down the city pool: The city pool will be closed as of Sept. 1. City officials say the pool is operating at a more than $60,000 deficit. When asked where the money is coming from to operate the pool, Alvarez-Roa said she did not know.