Monroe city council members continued to snipe at one another this week even as they try to find a new city manager and consider recommendations on how to behave.
The latest dust-up occurred in the middle of a Tuesday meeting to discuss suggested reforms in a consultant’s report. Councilwoman Dottie Nash read a statement critical of others on the board and renewed her objections to the report.
“Anybody that comes here at this time (for the manager’s position) either needs a job or is on a suicide mission,” Nash stated. “The problems on this council have become an embarrassment to our city and citizens.”
In an interview Thursday, Councilwoman Margaret Desio called Nash’s lengthy statement “a rant filled with half-truths and lies,” and only agreed with the “embarrassment” part.
After Nash spoke, council members told their attorney to develop a plan for them to consider on implementing reforms, which could include nepotism and codes of conduct issues.
Meanwhile, the hiring process for a new manager drags on.
The city had cut a list of 120 applicants to four finalists last week, and made an offer to a candidate from Elizabeth City, who turned them down. The board then opted to interview four additional candidates; those talks were set for Thursday and Friday.
It is unclear when the council will announce the fourth manager for the city since late 2000.
The board remains bitterly divided, with Nash, Mayor Bobby Kilgore and Councilman Billy Jordan on one side, and council members Desio, John Ashcraft Jr., Lynn Keziah and Freddie Gordon on the other.
Former manager Wayne Herron quit last July after heated council debate over his decision not to give Police Chief Debra Duncan a performance bonus. An anonymous call by a woman threatening the chief was traced to Herron’s home.
After Herron left, Assistant City Manager Greg Demko was named interim manager.
City council also hired lawyers with Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein for up to $50,000 to see why its managers keep quitting. Their report came back in February, and detailed a local government rife with nepotism and rampant interference by council members.
Employees interviewed for the report said they were afraid City Hall could be bugged. Nash had previously acknowledged she secretly recorded Herron because she thought other council members would not believe their conversation.
The report also said it found credible evidence that Duncan had secretly tape recorded Herron without his permission. In March, Demko said he was not going to discipline Duncan over the incident.
Nash, a staunch defender of the chief, said in her speech this week she believes the board majority won’t choose Demko as manager because he did not give in to their wishes to discipline Duncan.
Desio said that was only partly true, and that the board majority wants to hire someone with extensive experience as a city manager.
Nash – whose husband, son, the son’s fiancée and an ex-girlfriend of the son were hired by the city – also defended herself against nepotism charges.
“We are a small community where everybody is related or knows somebody,” she stated. Nash also said other council members whom she did not name were involved with getting friends and relatives city jobs.
In an interview, Nash said the board voted 4-3 in closed session a couple weeks ago to offer the job to Elizabeth City’s city manager, Rich Olson. But she said Olson turned down the offer after receiving a $15,000 raise to stay.
Olson confirmed Nash’s account, and said it was tough to turn down the offer. “It is a good community but the problem right now is politics, and everybody needs to come together for the benefit of the citizens of Monroe,” he said.
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