Durham City Manager Stepping Down to Be City Attorney
Posted December 11, 2007
The move fills the vacancy left by city attorney Henry Blinder who is retiring in January.
Baker will stay on as city manager until June to oversee the city's budget process. Karen Sindelar, an assistant city attorney in the City Attorney's Office will serve as interim city attorney until Baker takes over.
Mayor Bill Bell said the City Council was looking to replace Blinder and found Baker was best suited for the job.
"Having served as the assistant city attorney for eight years, Patrick is suited to lead the department, and we look forward to his continued leadership in that area," Bell said in a news release.
Baker said his decision to step down was about a balance of work and life and that a recent father-daughter weekend made him rethink his priorities.
"I probably needed some sort of slap in the face like that to realize there's more to life than what I'm doing right now," he said, adding that the 70-hour workweeks were catching up with him.
Baker has been on notice for the last year to improve his performance. He was scheduled to have his yearly review earlier this month.
He did not want to talk Tuesday about the pressures of his job and the criticism he has received for the way he has handled matters of the city, most recently for being slow to enact water conservation measures in the wake of the drought.
Baker also directed former Durham Police Chief Steve Chalmers to conduct an internal investigation into the police department's handling of the Duke lacrosse case. He said he did not think an outside review of the matter was necessary. (Incidentally, Baker was added as a defendant to a civil rights lawsuit Tuesday by the three former lacrosse players in the case.)
Earlier this year, state regulators cited the city for failing to report all results of water tests from last year, in which excessive levels of lead were found in the water.
And some city leaders criticized Baker after a massive yard-waste fire at the city dump that burned two weeks and cost the city $300,000 to extinguish and clean up. A subsequent investigation showed the dump had been operating without a license.
"All of us make mistakes. I've said that over and over again," Bell said. "What you try to do is learn from mistakes. We think with the mistakes he made, he learned from them. This opportunity came up, and he decided to go with it."
The search for a new manager will begin immediately.
Baker was named city manager in August 2004, replacing Marcia Conner, who resigned from office after coming under criticism for the questionable handling of city contracts.