Interim City Manager Candidate Declines Charlottesville's Job Offer
The man who turned down Charlottesville's interim City Manager position says the mayor is partly why he did not accept the job.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The candidate Charlottesville City Council offered the position of interim City Manager is revealing his reasoning for turning down the job.
In a letter [pdf] obtained by NBC29, Sidney “Cape” Zemp blames, in part, Mayor Nikuyah Walker's actions breaching the confidential hiring process, saying it exposes her "serious ethical shortcomings."
Zemp points to "the controversy contrived by the mayor and her questionable motivations" as a reason for refusing the job offer. He goes on to write, "the mayor's actions following the council's decision revealed deeply troubling concerns with a lack of adherence to the rule of law concerning council decisions and observing Virginia statute governing personnel hiring practices".
Zemp says Walker "openly flaunted" those. She took to Facebook live several times following City Council's closed-door interview with Zemp and other candidates for the position.
"The potential candidate that wants to come on board, I've expressed that I have grave concerns," said the mayor in a video posted to social media.
In one post, Walker read Zemp's resumé without directly naming him: "Chief of Staff U.S. Army, Human Resource Command, City Manager Garrison Commander, installation management command."
The mayor even tweeted, "We might have to protest a City Council decision! Are y'all with me?"
In response to that, Zemp writes "it was then clear to me common values, trust or even basic dignity and respect could not be guaranteed". He feared he would be "unable to serve the public needs, instead being mired in petty fights and paralysis, neither of which will help Charlottesville recover, much less resume normal activities".
Walker had said she did not necessarily agree with Zemp being chosen for the position, and believed the application process was flawed. She also added that she would rather have an internal candidate rather than someone the community does not know.
Charlottesville City Council has since offered the position to an internal candidate who has not accepted yet. Those candidates are Assistant City Managers Mike Murphy and Leslie Beauregard.
Councilors are expected to officially vote to name the interim City Manager at its August 6 meeting. They will also hold a public hearing related to the search for a permanent City Manager during that meeting.
Current City Manager Maurice Jones accepted a job in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, leaving his contract earlier than expected after the city did not renew it. His last day will be on July 31.
NBC29 reached out to Mayor Walker for comment, but have not heard back. She posted the following to her Facebook page a little before 11 a.m. Thursday, July 26:
I was honest with you all during the entire campaign. I will not break! I am free!!!
I asked Council to release the applicant’s information during our second closed session. Why did Council and the applicant refuse to release the documents earlier? What’s the benefit of releasing some of the documents to the press today? There are Council members who are trying to use their privilege to shape the story about this process. The applicant is responding favorably to Hill and/or Galvin and/or Signer ( I don’t know who is communicating with him). The applicant has told me “no” each time that I’ve asked him to release his information. The cover letter and interview video were not included in the information released to the press today. Citizens, you all still don’t have all the information. Please make sure that your elected officials are giving you all of the information.