Local News

Durham City Manager Stepping Down to Be City Attorney

Posted December 11, 2007

Durham City Manager Patrick Baker will leave his post for the job as city attorney, he announced Tuesday.

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.


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  • MarcoPolo Dec 12, 2007


    Please remove Raleigh from your tag. That is utterly the most ridiculous statement that I've heard since the last City PR conference. Oh wait- you said you were there. You should wait at least 7 days before posting because that air just wasn't good for you. I also can’t believe that you endorsed the hollering-sh*& newspaper is any good. Hope you got something than that reporter other than a few good lines.

    If there's anything racial here, its the black population of Durham breaking laws and nature of man in order to enhance a few black political leaders personal gain. The population encourages and facilitates the corruption. Nifong, the LAX case, giving Farrakan the key to the city, etc…. do you need any more examples let me know. It’s known and it’s fact. The end conclusion is Durham is full chopped full of ignorant, stupid racist people.

  • MarcoPolo Dec 12, 2007

    And for coming down on Nancy about the pigmentation comment....Did you poke your head around at all yesterday while you were at City Hall? If you deny it, you're lying- I know. You've been brainwashed.

    Please do not defend this immoral and reprehensible behavior by accusing others of racism. There is no fact involved just your own perfection. It’s so Durham-like and another reason to change your tag.

    Does “white flight” concern or interest you? Me thinks “heck no” and that you just being in downtown Durham and having lost all brain cells, just got off on the that magic word. Is this rationale of “white flight” with Durham being the way it is and prosecuting all other races? Heck yes. If you don’t think so, say so- facts would be good but I wouldn’t even know where to go besides the census data.. I don’t have any facts for this evaluation but based on what Durham has become (see above), it seems logical.

  • MarcoPolo Dec 12, 2007

    You had better believe I will continue to post on this subject. I’m very offended against injustice and corruption. I am offended by Durham. You don’t like it…do something about it in your Durham neighborhood or next time you visit downtown. Talk it up and get people thinking about how awful the reputation of the town is- fix it through word of mouth (with ignorant racists- some will be very proud I know some view the rights being taken away from all other races as cowboy justice) and how you vote. If you vote racists into office – guess what that makes you.

    You can accuse people of being racist all day if you want but the finger points where it belongs - right back at you. This is probably why you pointed it at Nancy. Find some logic in your arguments and when a reader throws out facts try to come back with a LOGICAL response. I look forward to sparring with you in the future as given you statements thus far – we have very little in common which is unfortunate.

  • Durham-Raleigh Dec 12, 2007

    "If things continue as they are you can expect to see a white flight from this city with so much history!"

    "Also, pigmentation is the most important part of being a Durham official. Credentials are way down the list."

    Nancy -- a long time back you challenged my comment that racial tensions underlie so much of the disdain and disgust for Durham that makes it into these comments.

    Do examples like this make it clearer and place my original observations in a different perspective for you?

  • tiredofgovtwaste Dec 12, 2007

    Poor performance - new job with a pay raise. This is so typical in Durham. Bell and his cronies need to go. If things continue as they are you can expect to see a white flight from this city with so much history!

  • jackadoo Dec 12, 2007

    Nancy...you are right-on regarding the LAX case. Also, pigmentation is the most important part of being a Durham official. Credentials are way down the list. This is why Durham is the ugly stepchild of the area. They make Lumberton look good.

  • x Dec 12, 2007

    I love Marco Polo's reference to Baker is Bell's "lap dog". I just really feel sorry for the Durham residents, voters, and tax payers who have to live with all the incompetence in their government. I suspect Baker was one of those who made the decision to NOT settle with the Duke LaCross players. Does anyone in Durham care that the city attorney should be someone with impecable legal credentials, and perhaps even a licensed attorney?

  • Durham-Raleigh Dec 12, 2007

    "Durham-Raleigh, why do you think I referred to the Durham newspaper as Hurled Scum? They rarely get much right, deadlines or not."

    See, I wouldn't go that far. Their metro reporter is actually pretty decent, and beat the N&O to the story by a good hour yesterday, while getting the article just about entirely right.

    I'd take the Herald-Sun coverage over WRAL's "coverage" of Durham any day; they've badly botched stories on the Durham Athletic Park renovations, and their coverage of city council and governmental issues lags behind both the Herald-Sun and the N&O.

  • Nancy Dec 12, 2007


    The H-S coverage was wrong -- not a criticism, it was a busy news day on the subject. Bill Bell explicitly stated that Baker would move over at whatever his salary was as of 6/30/2008.

    How do I know this? I actually attended the press conference, in person. (And spoke with the H-S reporter afterwards.)

    But, hey, don't let facts get in the way of opinions!"

    Durham-Raleigh, why do you think I referred to the Durham newspaper as Hurled Scum? They rarely get much right, deadlines or not.

    We witnessed their "coverage" of the Duke non-rape fiasco, they were wrong all the way to the end.

  • catch22 Dec 11, 2007

    lawywer with no license and a city manager with no experience. only in Durham. you people elected him and Bell. a golf clap will follow.