A developer earlier this week called for the City of Rocky Mount’s top day-to-day executive to step aside or for the City Council to fire her.
Troy Davis approached the speaker’s podium during the public input phase of Monday evening’s council regular meeting and soon began criticizing City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney. Davis’ remarks prompted rebuttals from Small-Toney and Councilman Andre Knight.
Davis early in his remarks made clear he was kind of shocked to hear vacancies in city employee positions continue to be blamed on the effects of the spread of the coronavirus.
Earlier during the council meeting, Small-Toney told the viewing audience of 10 open positions in the municipal solid waste collection operation.
Davis said he believes that the issue of the shortage of employees was ongoing long before COVID-19 and that the municipal Environmental Services Division in particular has been facing shortages of workers.
Davis made clear he believes spending a lot of money on a temp agency to hire people to do sanitation work for now is “absurd” and “ridiculous.”
“I think we need to take a deep look at the amount of jobs we have available,” he said. “There is no reason why the citizens of Rocky Mount aren’t allowed to apply for those jobs without interference from the city manager. I think that we need to kind of let HR (the Department of Human Resources) do its job. There is human resources for a reason.
“We just need to stand up and stop catering to someone that is ruining our city,” he added.
Davis also noted one of the two assistant city manager positions was vacant and referred to Small-Toney in 2018 having unsuccessfully tried to secure approval from the previous council to budget a third assistant city manager position.
Davis, prefacing with the preamble to the Constitution, “We the People,” said, “We’re fed up. We’re tired. We need someone that is going to lead our city — and right now it seems like it’s being led down a tunnel.
“We need a leader who is going to lead our city in a forward motion — and we need our leaders, our elected leaders, to stand up to look into what’s going on really in the City Hall,” he said. “And one last thing: We the people demand that our city manager resign. If not, we demand the elected body here, today, terminate our city manager.”
After Davis finished his remarks, Small-Toney said she would be happy to respond to Davis and the community as a whole.
As Small-Toney began to reply, Davis could be heard in the background in the council chamber saying, “Enough of the lies.”
Mayor Sandy Roberson, who chairs council regular meetings, told Davis he was being disruptive. Davis could be heard saying, “She needs to resign, effective immediately.”
“No, what I need to do is tell the truth about Troy Davis,” Small-Toney said.
Roberson, who was sitting to the right of Small-Toney, with a slight gesture with his left hand, advised Small-Toney against verbally engaging Davis.
Small-Toney said she was not going to go there, but she said as city manager, “I do not interfere with the hiring of people that don’t report directly to me.
“I entrust that, really, to the department heads,” Small-Toney said. “They’re the ones who are considered the hiring authority. I only hire those department heads that report directly to me.”
Small-Toney also said the challenges the city faces are very much related to COVID-19 and that both the municipality and the community went through a difficult and unprecedented time.
“We had no idea what we were dealing with,” she said.
She said there are a number of factors as to why the city is experiencing so many employee vacancies.
She spoke of, as an example, employees, many of them who are women, who had to leave their jobs because they had to take care of their children due to the closures of schools during the coronavirus.
As for the city, she said, “This organization is full of a lot of dedicated, committed employees who keep the ship afloat every single day. And I for one will not allow anyone to come in here and discredit their commitment to public service. That’s just not going to happen.”
She made clear she typically does not respond to comments from the public during council meetings.
At the same time, she made clear she felt she had to say something, not so much on her behalf, but on behalf of the municipal employees who go to work daily and put, in many cases, their lives on the line.
“So I’m very proud of my leadership team. I’m very proud of my leadership, in particular, of this organization — and I look forward to continuing in this role,” she said.
Knight said he has a lot of respect for both Davis and Small-Toney.
Knight also said he believes Davis is very talented, has good skills, has a brilliant mind and has pulled himself up by his bootstraps with the support of the council.
Knight said this council and Downtown Development Manager Kevin Harris have supported Davis “120 percent” in the vision Davis has caught on to in developing downtown.
Knight, however, made clear he took exception as to how Davis, whom he called his friend, displayed his frustration in the council chamber.
“I don’t like everything that Rochelle Small-Toney does and I don’t like everything that Mr. Troy Davis does — and probably vice versa for both of them concerning me,” Knight said. “But I’m not going to tolerate anybody, whether it’s a friend or not a friend, to be disrespectful in that way.”
He also said the council has supported not just Davis, but everybody who wants to be a part of the development in Rocky Mount.
“There’s some things that we’ve got to work on, but we stand and we lead,” he said. “People may not like the way we lead — but in order to lead, you’ve got to have tough skin and be unbossed and unbought and say what you mean and mean what you say.”
Meanwhile, Davis, in a brief posting on Facebook, announced that the former Carleton House downtown motor lodge and restaurant, which he acquired late last year, is back on the real estate market, with an asking price of $1.5 million.
Davis in the posting said that he knows he can do a revitalization project at the location, which is at the northeast corner of Church and Thomas streets, but that he cannot do so without the city’s support.