Small-Toney given firing orders


Staff Writer

Monday, February 11, 2019

A possible reason for the recent turnover of city department heads could likely be that their heads might have already been on the chopping block.

A Rocky Mount City Council member has confirmed to the Telegram the existence of a laundry list of employees that administrators are expected to wash out.

That list includes:

■ Former Downtown Development Manager John Jesso

■ Former Public Works Director Jonathan Boone

■ Outgoing Fire Chief Mike Varnell

■ Engineering Director Brad Kerr

■ Energy Resources Director Rich Worsinger

■ Finance Director Amy Staton

■ Budget Manager Ken Hunter

Upon her arrival in Rocky Mount in July 2017, City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney was handed the hit list by Councilman Reuben Blackwell, according to a fellow council member who asked not to be identified because speaking about the list could be construed as a violation of a personnel matter and to avoid any possible retaliation.

Blackwell didn't respond to detailed emails seeking comment about the matter.

Unwillingness to carry out the list is a reported reason for the departure of former Assistant City Manager Tasha Logan Ford.

"The city manager is not aware of any list from anyone that identifies directors, managers or employees that are targeted or have been targeted to lose their position," Tameka Kenan-Norman, the city's chief communications officer, told the Telegram.

At least one department head didn't stick around long enough to make anyone's list.

Robert Cook was hired last week to fill the vacant position of chief technology officer. Bruce Harper resigned from the post in March 2018. He was replaced by Adam Snell, who left a few weeks ago for a job in Raleigh.

Cook was hired through a temporary employment agency and reported for work Tuesday, where he landed in the middle of a meeting in which Small-Toney dressed down department heads, according to city employees present at the weekly gathering.

Cook left early and didn't return the next day.

Kenan-Norman confirmed Cook is no longer working for the city after half a day on the job.