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New parks director named

daniels headshot.jpg

Elton Daniels

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A recent hire to head the city's Parks and Recreation Department is a longtime friend of City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney and would have been the top choice for a nixed third assistant manager's position.

Elton Daniels is the town manager for Selma. He is leaving there Feb. 12 to start his job on Feb. 18 in Rocky Mount.

Daniels makes $96,000 annually as the town manager in Selma. His salary as director of Parks and Recreation in Rocky Mount is set at $130,000, according to his Jan. 7 job offer letter obtained by the Telegram via a public records request.

Daniels informed the Selma Town Council at a Jan. 8 meeting that he needed to resign for a position in which he could spend more time with his family, according to a recent report in the Johnstoninian News.

Selma has around 78 employees, said Mayor Cheryl Oliver, who on Tuesday wished Daniels well in his new endeavor.

“There are 398 full-time and part-time employees in the Parks and Recreation Department,” said Tameka Kenan-Norman, the city's chief communications officer.

Selma's entire budget for this fiscal year is $18 million. Rocky Mount's Parks and Recreation Department has a budget more than half that number at $11 million, according to the annual spending plans for both municipalities.

Daniels replaces Kelvin Yarrell, the parks director since 2013. In October, Small-Toney moved Yarrell down to supervise cemetery maintenance.

Daniels hiring fits a pattern of Small-Toney finding jobs for friends, even if it's at taxpayer expense. As previously reported in the Telegram, the city paid out $40,000 to settle a discrimination claim filed by a former employee pushed out to make room for a Small-Toney friend; a search for a permanent police chief has been restarted with $27,000 already spent due to Small-Toney reserving the spot for a friend; and Small-Toney sought a third assistant manager position with an eye on Daniels, according to a highly-placed source within City Hall who asked not to be identified because they aren't permitted to speak publicly on the matter due to fear of retaliation.

“I don’t recall how long I have known Mr. Daniels, but I have known him for several years, meeting him through professional organizations such as the International City/County Management Association, N.C. League of Municipalities, N.C. City/County Management Association and ElectriCities Board of Directors,” Small-Toney said Tuesday.

Small-Toney contacted the International City/County Management Association last year at the time she was trying to get the City Council to approve a third assistant manager. She inquired as to the organization's standards for a minimum service. Daniels has been the Selma town manager since August 2017.

Tenet 4 of the ICMA Code of Ethics calls for a manager to remain in place for two years in order to render a professional service to a local government.

“I always utilize ICMA with questions that involve managerial decisions I have to make. It's a very good resource on a variety of issues,” Small-Toney said in reference to questions about the purpose of her contact with the association last year.

In Sunday's Telegram, Small-Toney denied rumors she's planning to push out one of her current assistant managers in favor of her choice for the scraped third position.

“Our current assistant city managers are in place and doing a terrific job. There are no plans to make any changes in that area.” Small-Toney said in answer to questions about the issue.

Chris Beschler and Natasha Hampton-Clayton were hired in May to replace assistant managers Tom Moten and Tasha Logan Ford, who left during Small-Toney's tenure.

“If I were Beschler, I'd be looking over my shoulder, watching my back and sleeping with one eye open,” the City Hall source said Tuesday.

Small-Toney has doubled down, again denying she wanted a friend — now identified as Daniels — as the third assistant manager.

“A third assistant city manager position was never approved by council, so there could be no choice to fill the post,” Small-Toney said Tuesday.

Daniels has plenty of municipal management experience with less practice in parks and recreation leadership save for grant administration.

Prior to the Selma job, Daniels was assistant manager for Franklin County. There, Daniels administered grants related to parks and recreation including a $250,000 Land and Water Conservation Fund grant as well as a grant from the state Wildlife Resources Commission to provide a recreational fishing pier.

Daniels also worked as town manager for Sharpsburg, where he administered a parks and recreation trust fund grant with a total project cost of $178,400.

A Leland native, Daniels has been a magistrate in Brunswick County and town administrator and management advisor for the towns of Bolton, Navassa and Northwest through the N.C. Local Government Service Corps, a joint effort sponsored by the UNC School of Government and the state Rural Center.

“I am enthusiastic about Mr. Daniels’ comprehensive knowledge of local government,” Small-Toney said in a press release about Daniels' being hired. “As a former town and county manager, he understands all of the administrative aspects for both counties and municipalities. His direct supervision and hands-on work with departments like Parks and Recreation also provide him with the wide-ranging skills essential for this position.”

Daniels received a bachelor's degree in political science from Furman University in Greenville and a master's degree of public administration from UNC-Wilmington.

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