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City manager faced same allegations

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City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Monday, January 21, 2019

A scathing letter of reprimand handed to Rocky Mount City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney six years ago by a different council in a different city reads as if it could've been written today.

"If you lose the public's confidence, your ability to administer and oversee the operations of this city will fail no matter how well-qualified or competent you may be," Savannah, Ga., Mayor Edna Branch Jackson wrote in a September 2012 letter to Small-Toney, who was city manager there at the time.

Small-Toney — scolded by the Savannah City Council for several reasons — stepped down in 2012 after a year and a half on the job.

Small-Toney then worked in Fayetteville as an assistant city manager beginning in 2013. She resigned in January 2017. She began her tenure in Rocky Mount on July 3, 2017.

The Rocky Mount City Council has scheduled a special meeting for 3 p.m. today, which is a city holiday to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The stated purpose of the meeting is to allow council to enter into closed session to discuss a personnel matter.

Mirroring current events, Small-Toney came under fire in Savannah for hiring an inexperienced job candidate and the complete turnover of a key department among other actions.

In Savannah, Small-Toney hired a friend to serve as the city's emergency management director. She then approved a substantial pay increase for the position. The friend was fired when the Savannah council discovered his application and resume contained inconsistencies.

In Rocky Mount, Small-Toney hired a friend with no apparent parks experience to serve as the city's parks and recreation director. He was given a $130,000 salary, the high end of the pay scale for that position and $40,000 more than the previous department head.

In Savannah, Small-Toney drew criticism for allowing complete turnover in the city's purchasing department. Under Small-Toney the department's five employees had been terminated, forcibly reassigned or resigned. The department was being run by new hires and temporary staff.

In Rocky Mount, Small-Toney combined community and business development with a friend hired to helm the new department. Within a few months the five employees were gone along with their combined institutional knowledge and experience.

Small-Toney offered similar excuses to both councils. In Savannah, she blamed a computer glitch for mismanagement and in Rocky Mount she told the council at a meeting last week that she couldn't fully explain an agenda item due to the screen on her tablet being cracked.

"Candidly, I personally am troubled that the mayor and council have been required to concern ourselves with suggesting to you administrative procedures — steps as obvious as requiring that the city's bills be paid within a certain length of time — which should have been in place, but reportedly are not," Jackson wrote in her reprimand letter to Small-Toney.

A member of the Rocky Mount City Council said they're disturbed by reports from city employees that they've been told by Small-Toney they would be fired if they try to talk to council members about their concerns. That council member said employees as well as residents are always welcome to express themselves to any council member.

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