Charlottesville City Council holds emergency session in wake of “leadership crisis”

Charlottesville City Council holds closed emergency session in wake of “leadership crisis”
Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 7:05 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville City Council spent five hours in a closed emergency session Friday, trying to get a handle on a recent turnover in leadership. This comes after deputy city manager Letitia Shelton resigned 24 hours prior.

City Councilor Michael Payne is calling it a crisis.

“It’s vital that we be honest and not sugarcoat it,” Payne said. “The city is in a leadership crisis and council and the city organization is nowhere where it needs to be for our community.”

With the resignation of Shelton, council is feeling the pressure. In addition to the loss of its deputy city manager, there are three other spots that need to be filled, including city manager.

“Overall, the amount of instability in the organization makes it hard to retain high-quality talent and it makes it hard to recruit high-quality talent,” Payne said. “Throughout the organization, when there’s this level of instability, people don’t feel secure in their ability to lead the organization and do their jobs.”

Payne says these staffing issues are keeping council from addressing crucial problems in the city.

“We’re obviously in a time where we’re dealing with very serious issues,” Payne said. “A pandemic, a historic rise in gun violence in the city, continuing long term issues with affordable housing, and criminal justice reform.”

Payne says he is not sure if they will be able to resolve these leadership conflicts in one meeting.

“That’s what our job should be, it should not be consumed with this level of infighting and turnover,” he said. “We have to stabilize the organization and do what the community is desperate for us to actually do which is to govern and lead.”

As the meeting adjourned after several hours Friday, council did not provide any information on what happened during the session.

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