DURHAM, N.C. — After a 12-hour closed-door meeting, Marcia Conner and the Durham City Council agreed late Thursday night to terminate her contract as city manager.
"As I've always said, I serve at the pleasure of Durham City Council," Conner said. "I, like anyone else in my position, wish that things had turned out differently. This council and I have reached a mutual agreement for me to end my tenure as Durham city manager. It is clear that we have a difference in management philosophies, which is why we have both determined that my departure as city manager is in the best interest of everyone concerned.
"Personally and professionally, I have always wanted to do what was best for this city, its citizens and city of Durham employees. I hope in the long run that the accomplishments that will affect this city long-term are somehow a silver lining in today's cloud. Finally, I want to say thanks to city council members, citizens, groups and employees who have supported me over the last three years."
Conner, who began as city manager in June of 2001, has been operating under a microscope since 2002. She came under fire for a lengthy police chief search, then drew sharp criticism for the questionable handling of city contracts. The council cut her pay and made her subject to monthly reviews.
Conner and council members met at 9 a.m. Thursday for her final annual performance evaluation. Late in the afternoon, council members broke from their discussion and went into a public work session. They resumed their deliberations Thursday night.
Conner's supporters on the city council say they are disappointed, but not surprised by the outcome.
"I knew she didn't have enough votes to keep her when I came in this morning," councilmember Howard Clement said.
Last month, citizens armed with 7,000 signatures made a renewed call for Conner's resignation.
"My thoughts are that it is a personnel issue. I'm not really allowed to say anything. I'm glad it's over," opponent and councilmember Eugene Brown said. "It's been a long day. Hopefully, this will start a new chapter in the life of the city of Durham."
Conner's last day is scheduled for Aug. 20, but is contingent upon the agreement of a severance package. A term of that agreement is that Conner cannot sue the city.
The city manager was back at work early Friday. She met with department heads and reportedly told employees to stay positive and focused.
Mayor Bill Bell said the council has not discussed the search for a new city manager. He said that will be taken up at the next meeting on August 2.