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Miller disputes ‘unanimous’ vote for manager

Chris Miller.jpg.jpg

Councilwoman Chris Miller

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Rocky Mount City Councilwoman Chris Miller said she never voted to hire City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney.

The council is set to meet at 3 p.m. Monday to discuss personnel matters in closed session related to Small-Toney. Public comment is allowed at the city's 4 p.m. regular meeting.

Small-Toney faces mounting allegations of cronyism and financial mismanagement similar to accusations that led to her 2012 ouster in Savannah, Ga.

The council held a closed session in May 2017 in which the vote whether to hire Small-Toney was 4-3 with Councilman Reuben Blackwell, Councilman Andre Knight, Councilwoman Lois Watkins and Councilman Lamont Wiggins voting to hire Small-Toney and Miller, Councilman W.B. Bullock and Councilman Tom Rogers voting no.

Another vote — unanimous according to meeting minutes — was taken in open session. Miller said she left the meeting before the second vote was taken.

According to minutes for the May 15, 2017, "Motion was made by Councilmember Knight, seconded by Councilmember Wiggins and unanimously carried to proceed by acclamation to appoint Rochelle D. Small-Toney to the position of City Manager for the City of Rocky Mount effective July 2, 2017, contingent upon further negotiations and conditions as discussed in closed session."

The minutes were approved by the council June 26, 2017. A unanimous vote counts the council members present at the time of a vote.

Miller said Wednesday that she regrets not catching the error in the minutes, but she had to set the record straight.

“I didn't vote for her,” Miller said. “I had left the room, I couldn't have voted for her.”

Small-Toney came to Rocky Mount with a dark cloud. She was asked to resign from her position with Savannah due to alleged travel expense discrepancies. And she backed out of a potential job in Virginia due to questions arising about her troubles in Georgia, according to newspaper reports.

Rocky Mount Mayor David Combs said at the time that the council learned all about Small-Toney's background during a thorough vetting process but was satisfied she was the best candidate for the job.

“She was very honest with us that she didn't leave Savannah on good terms, but we felt it was more of a political issue and she was caught in the middle more than anything else,” Combs said.

Small-Toney has worked in city-county government for 34 years, including time as a deputy manager in Fayetteville; assistant city manager in Danville and Charlottesville, Va.; and budget analyst and personnel analyst for Wilmington. She is a 1978 and 1981 graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public administration.

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