Hamlet city manager’s performance a hot topic
In closed session, council might offer David a contract
by Kevin Spradlin Richmond County Daily Journal
The job performance of Hamlet City Manager Marchell David is expected to be a topic of discussion during a closed session of an otherwise public meeting tonight in Hamlet.
The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at Hamlet City Hall, 201 Main St.
David’s most recent evaluation was conducted in August. Council members might also move to offer David, city manager since 2001, a long-term contract in order to secure her employment despite the outcome of the Nov. 5 election. There is some discussion that David, who was at the center of the firing of former police chief John Haywood a year ago for “failure in performance of his duties,” still draws the resentment of some who hold or seek power on the town council.
The council’s potential move seems to be the city’s worst-kept secret.
“Everybody in town’s talking about it,” said Stacy Avenue resident Don Norton.
Norton, a former city employee, didn’t specify any particular grudge or complaint against David but felt the timing of a possible contract raises red flags. Why would the council offer her a contract now, he asked, when members have had the opportunity to do so for years?
Norton questioned waiting less than a month before the city’s election that could unseat members of the current council.
“If you’re going to do things, do it right,” Norton said.
The council is expected to go into executive, or closed, session to discuss David’s job performance and any related items. It is expected that a vote to offer David a contract, a raise or any other job-related perk would take place in public session.
Council member Tony Clewis said he hasn’t seen a contract. Fellow council member Pat Preslar said he wasn’t willing to say whether or not, in advance, there would be a contract offer. But if there is, he understands why.
“I don’t want to confirm or deny” if there is a contract offer on the table, Preslar said, “but if that was to be done … let’s talk about the pro side of that. I could see the city council entertaining something like that.”
Preslar said there are better reasons to terminate an employee other than “just because you don’t like her anymore” and said he doesn’t think it’s appropriate that a new majority, if that’s what the Nov. 5 election brings, would force David out of her position without a proper amount of time to evaluate her job performance.
“Are they going to guarantee her a fair shot,” Preslar asked.
Preslar said even a short-term contract, such as a six-month period in which any new council members would then be able to properly review David’s job performance, is “not out of the question.”
That would allow any new council members to “review what (David’s) done … then set goals for the next amount of time,” Preslar said.
“Or six months salary if they fire her,” Preslar said. “It might be that she just gets a raise Tuesday night.”
The position of city manager for Hamlet has not worked with a contract in recent history, but David herself said it’s common for the position. She also said the idea of a contract had been recently discussed.
“It’s a professional position,” David said. “Most managers have a contract because you serve at the pleasure of an elected board. We are highly skilled, highly trained professional managers, and whether or not we have a job should be totally dependent on our performance, and not an election every two years.”
David declined to address any lingering issues surrounding Haywood’s termination. However, David did say that controversy sometimes can’t be avoided.
“It goes along with what we do,” David said. “The good far exceeds any outcome of any negativity in politics. Part of the ugliest part of being in management is hiring and firing because of the human component of that. My priority is, and always has been, to make sure the city of Hamlet is protected in a professional manner … and I think I do that very well. You can’t always take the easy road.”
David described tonight’s meeting as business as usual.
“I’ve learned to expect nothing,” David said. “I’m going to work. It’s just any typical Tuesday night for me.”
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