A contract offer now?

October 7, 2013

The Mayor and City Council in Hamlet might, later tonight, find themselves at a crossroads and not even know it.

It’s possible, we’re told, that the elected members consider a contract for City Manager Marchell David. Such a move would set a precedent for the city and the person who holds that position.

It’s possible that some members of the council feel it is their job to ensure David’s continued employment for a yet-to-be-defined period of time. As it happens, the vote might take place during the council’s monthly public meeting. Only the discussion regarding a potential contract would take place behind closed doors.

The vote on this issue could come less than a month after some council members expect they might be voted out of office. It’s been suggested that David, who has served as city manager since 2001 and recently celebrated her 20th anniversary as an employee of the city of Hamlet, has done an exemplary job and has received rave reviews from existing city staff and elected officials.

Maybe so. Maybe not. There are three questions in play. First, are council members trying to safeguard a longtime city employee? Or are council members participating in political gamesmanship and trying to run around a future council, one that might have a majority with a different view? But the most important question is this: If David is offered a contract, is that in the best interests of the city and its residents?

City Councilman Pat Preslar said the issue is a double-edged sword. He’s right. There are pros and cons to both sides. It’s only natural to expect that councilmembers who feel they might be voted out of office try to leave the city in a better position than they found it. On the other hand, such a contract for — again — an unknown period of time could hamstring the city’s efforts to move forward.

Should a new majority be elected on Nov. 5, then at least the people will have had their say. To be sure, there is controversy behind David’s management of the city. She acknowledged it herself.

“Part of being in management is hiring and firing,” David said. “It’s never easy to fire people because of the human component of that.”

And the human component doesn’t forget, and often doesn’t easily forgive. Many people were hurt when the city, and David, terminated John Haywood a year ago from the position of police chief after nearly 20 years of service. If there is a small minority spreading such negativity in Hamlet, we sure wish it would stop. But the council can take a step tonight to carefully consider whether it’s in the city’s best interest to move forward with a possible contract offer to David.

As Hamlet resident Don Norton said, “if you’re going to do things, do it right.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. The Daily Journal won’t judge David’s performance, but as this editorial notes that the current city council has had quite some time to offer David a contract. Why now, less than a month before the election? At this point, it might be best to simply wait and let whomever receives the most votes, as voters dictate, move the city forward in the manner they see fit.