City manager signs contract with ‘indefinite terms’

Iris Hunter Richmond County

October 10, 2013

Hamlet City Manager Marchell David has signed an employment agreement that she said offered her a 5 percent salary increase with other “indefinite terms.”

David’s most recent performance evaluation, conducted in August, was a primary topic during the mayor and city council’s executive session late Tuesday night. The closed-door session lasted more than an hour.

David fended off the suggestion the council offered her a contract now — less than a month before the November election — rather than after election day in case a majority of council members did not appreciate her performance and might move to dismiss her from her position, which she has held since 2001. David, of Rockingham, has 20 years of service with the city of Hamlet.

Before Tuesday’s meeting, David said she’d heard rumors about possibilities depending on the outcome of the election.

“Obviously, the thought has crossed my mind,” she said of the idea of her being let go later this year, “but at the end of the day, I’m here to do a job and do it well. If it’s not a good fit anymore, then that’s life.”

On Thursday, David called the signed contract “a fair agreement for both the city and me.”

David said that the contract was offered to her due to 20 years of outstanding service and numerous good performance evaluations.

Neither David, nor councilmen Johnathan Buie or Dewer Brower, offered any other details of the contract — including the length of the contract.

Buie did note that the vote to offer David a contract was not unanimous. Buie said he was the lone dissenter in a 4-1 vote conducted after the council reconvened late Tuesday night in open session. Buie emphasized his position wasn’t necessarily against David or her job performance but against the idea of offering a contract to anyone in that position.

“There is no one in particular that deserves a contract,” Buie said. “Regardless of how well you perform your duties … that speaks for itself. You should not need a contract so long as you perform the duties the way you’re supposed to.”

Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, Councilman Pat Preslar disagreed. He said indicated the results of the Nov. 5 election could result in hiring former Police Chief John Haywood — whom David fired in September 2012.

“They’ve told people they’re going to fire (David), run her off, and rehire (Haywood),” Preslar said. “I hate that we are a freak show, a side show in Hamlet.”

Preslar indicated his support for David, noting she “hadn’t done anything wrong.”

“She’s going to get thrown under a bus,” Preslar said before Tuesday’s meeting.

Since the meeting Tuesday, no one from Hamlet’s administrative offices is saying much of anything about the subject. The Daily Journal has requested a copy of the signed contract. David, however, insisted the contract is confidential. Buie said a copy of the contract could become available as soon as today, adding that since he hadn’t verified the contract had been signed, he was unauthorized to speak about its contents. Earlier, David told The Daily Journal the contract had been signed by both herself and Mayor Jeff Smart.

According to the UNC School of Government website, the contract itself might not be a public document. However, state statues include a list of items about personnel that is public record.

“The list includes the employee’s name, age, current salary and salary history, contract terms” and other data, according to a 2012 public records overview available on the website.

Smart couldn’t be reached for comment for this story and Councilman Dewery Bower declined to answer any questions related to the issue.

Brower is running for re-election this November. Council member Abbie Covington’s seat is up for grabs as she has chosen not to seek re-election. Running for the two open seats, along with Brower, are Eddie Martin, Jesse McQueen and Bert Unger. Smart is not seeking re-election as mayor. Bill Bayless is the lone candidate for that position.