The City Council on Monday is going to take up a proposal to amend the personnel ordinance to state that the city manager will have the final say in the case of an employee who contests a supervisor’s recommendation for termination.
During a council work session on Dec. 9 — and shortly before the new council was to be seated at the regular council meeting — the previous council unanimously voted that the change be recommended for approval.
Shortly after the start of the Jan. 13 regular council meeting, as the council was about to approve the minutes of Dec. 9 council business, new Councilman Lige Daughtridge brought up the personnel matter.
Daughtridge said his reason was that the new council members had not had the opportunity to hear or weigh in on the proposed change to the ordinance.
Daughtridge made a motion, seconded by new Councilman T.J. Walker, to table consideration of the recommendation from the Dec. 9 work session of the previous council.
Councilmen Reuben Blackwell and Andre Knight could be heard voting no and Mayor Sandy Roberson noted the dissenting votes aloud for the record.
Daughtridge’s successful effort to table means the matter is scheduled to come back up at Monday’s regular council meeting. The council did unanimously approve the minutes of business from Dec. 9.
Monday’s regular council meeting is set to start at 4 p.m.
The proposed change to the ordinance was presented at the Dec. 9 work session by City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney after having been prepared by City Attorney Jep Rose.
The proposed change would prevent an employee from having the option of being able to have a recommendation for termination heard by the city’s employee-based Peer Review Panel.
There is no plan to change the right of an employee who is suspended or demoted to be able to appeal to the Peer Review Panel.
During the Dec. 9 work session, Small-Toney said at the previous work session, there was discussion about a conflict existing between the municipal charter and the city manager’s authority to be the final person to decide issues regarding terminations.
“And what we wanted to do is to resolve the conflict because that panel also was vested with the ability to also overturn or uphold terminations that are recommended by the director,” Small-Toney said.
Small-Toney said her recollection was that the consensus of the council was to keep the Peer Review Panel in place, but to limit the panel’s authority to hear cases of recommended terminations.
Rose told the council that the appeal of a termination goes solely to the manager.
Councilwoman Chris Miller wanted to know how long Rose or the city had been aware of the conflict and whether other municipalities had the same conflict.
Rose said, “Well, it’s not technically a conflict. I mean, the charter gives it to the city manager.”
Rose said a previous council years ago established the Peer Review Panel, but he made clear he believes the present situation raises the issue that the panel could overturn a supervisor’s recommendation to terminate an employee.
“It’s just a matter of controlling your organization, I think,” Rose said.
Rose made clear the employee has the right to appeal a recommendation for a termination, with the city manager to sit as the judge.
In such a situation, there would be a hearing, with the employee having the rights to bring his or her own attorney, have witnesses and cross-examine witnesses.
Rose, an attorney with the Poyner Spruill law firm, said that at the hearing, someone from the firm would represent the city manager and another attorney would represent the department involved.
Rose pointed out that during a hearing before the Peer Review Panel, the employee cannot bring his or her attorney.
After discussion at the Dec. 9 work session, departing Councilwoman Lois Watkins made a motion, seconded by Blackwell, in favor of the recommendation.
The rest of the agenda for Monday’s regular council meeting appears to be routine. However, regular council meetings always are unpredictable because they include the public comment phase.
During this phase, city residents can address the mayor and the council for three minutes each. The scene is lively and at times contentious.
To view regular council meeting agendas online, go to https://www.rockymountnc.gov/government/mayor_city_council/agendas.