David Wise, who was fired nearly a year ago from his job as the leader of Rocky Mount’s Main Street revitalization program, was paid $7,000 in a settlement agreement, City Attorney Jep Rose said and a document shows.
In a brief report to the City Council on Monday evening, Rose said that after Wise was terminated, Wise’s attorney contacted the City Attorney’s Office alleging “certain procedural irregularities” with respect to the termination.
Rose said the claim was investigated, the settlement was reached, the city paid the money and Wise executed the release of his claim against the city.
“This is a minor claim,” Rose said. “It did not have to be approved by the City Council, but it was discussed with the City Council.”
A document Rose provided to the Telegram shows that of the $7,000 amount, $5,250 went to Wise and $1,750 went to Ballard Law, which served as Wise’s legal counsel. An attempt by the Telegram to reach Ballard Law for comment was unsuccessful on Tuesday.
The document states the agreement and the payment shall neither be interpreted as an admission by the city that the city acted wrongly with respect to Wise nor of Wise having any rights against the city.
The document also states Wise agreed to neither belittle nor libel or slander the city or any of the city’s business activities, employees, officers, products and services.
The document also states Wise and his attorney agreed not to release details of the settlement to the news media and the public.
Specifically, the document states Wise and his attorney agreed if questioned about the case to say “no comment” or words to that effect or “the matter is resolved” or words to that effect.
One exception would be where necessary when dealing with a person about accounting, insurance, legal or tax matters, but only if such a person is aware of and agrees to be bound by the confidentiality part of the settlement.
The document does not prevent Wise from providing truthful information in response to a subpoena or to any federal or state agency with jurisdiction over Wise.
Wise and City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney both signed the document.
Wise was hired on March 11, 2019, and began working as a city business and downtown development coordinator.
Then-city chief spokeswoman Tameka Kenan-Norman said a separation from Wise’s employment occurred on Aug. 24, 2019. Kenan-Norman said Wise had been a probationary employee who did not successfully complete probation.
The Telegram later followed up and obtained from Rose a copy of the termination letter issued by Small-Toney.
A review of the letter, which is public record, showed the text lacked substance about why Wise was taken off the municipal government’s payroll.
Small-Toney in the letter told Wise, “You are being released from your position with the City of Rocky Mount effective immediately. We have not received the level of performance expected in the position you hold.”
The letter did not say what level of performance was expected of Wise or what Wise did not fulfill as to what was expected of him in his less than half a year on the job.
The letter told Wise, “As you are a probationary employee, you do not have appeal rights on this decision.”
Main Street programs seek to help transform older and historic commercial districts into vibrant areas with thriving economies.
Wise, who was being paid a salary of $40,317, was the one responsible for working to help promote Rocky Mount’s central business district.
Wise had reported to work in Rocky Mount from Colorado.
One of Wise’s first appearances locally was in late May 2019, at a historic preservation and revitalization seminar at the Booker T. Theater.
Officials, led in part by Wise, signaled they apparently wanted to regenerate interest in upgrading the central business district.
During the June 2019 meeting of Rocky Mount’s Central City Revitalization Panel, members of the panel and officials, in a roundtable-like manner, briefly spoke about their backgrounds.
Wise told the panel he has much experience working in the Main Street program and in preservation and restoration.
Wise also told the panel he most recently was an assistant to the administrator in a small city in the southeastern part of Colorado.
The settlement with Wise is hardly the only one involving a former official at City Hall in recent years.
John Jesso, who was downtown development manager from 2014 to 2018, ended up resigning as part of a settlement agreement with approval of the State Industrial Commission.
The city paid a total of $40,000.
Of that amount, $3,500 was paid to Jesso for a worker’s compensation claim, $16,850 was paid to Jesso for wage-related claims and $19,650 was paid for attorney fees and any claims Jesso may have not had related to wages.
The city paid a $400 fee to the Industrial Commission.
Additionally, Landis Faulcon, who joined the city in 2018 as community and business development director, reached a settlement agreement after questions surfaced about her competency and her continuing to live in Virginia’s Hampton Roads area and in Halifax County.
Faulcon resigned in September 2019 and was paid $500 for a release from all claims.
Faulcon also was paid for 37½ hours of compensation for sick leave, which amounted to $2,308, and also was paid for 39.81 hours of unused vacation time, which amounted to $2,450.
Faulcon had been a major hire for Small-Toney, who was hired in 2017.