Local News

Durham City Manager Leaves Meeting In Tears After Scrutiny Over Recommendation

Posted November 5, 2002 4:13 a.m. EST

— Durham City Manager Marcia Conner let her emotions get the best of her at a City Council meeting Monday night. Conner cried after admitting she hired a consulting firm without advertising the job or asking for bids.

"I take it a bit personal when there's an underlying message I'm not ethical or I'm being dishonest," she said. "These policies were not, in fact, followed."

Conner first said she had nothing to do with choosing The Marshall Group for a consulting job on a revitalization project, but she changed that story Monday. Conner worked closely with Byron Marshall, principal of The Marshall Group, when she was assistant city manager in Austin, Texas.

Conner's admission drew harsh criticism from council members.

"That's something that's got to change. It must change. If we're going to get information, we need complete information," councilman Lewis Cheek said.

Conner has been criticized over the city's hiring process for the city's police chief.

Jeffrey Elliot, a political science professor at North Carolina Central, said he believes these mishaps raise competency questions. He said they can erode public confidence.

"They encourage anger, resentment, hostility. These are the kinds of things people are quick to suggest are wrong with government," he said. "I don't think it's an issue of corruption or ethics."

While Conner said she takes full responsiblity for not following proper procedure with the consulting firm, she said problems lie in the policies.

"I want you to know the same practices and confusion in place now has been there for a long time," Conner said. "I have to take the responsibility as city manager to say the buck stops with me. I have to lay out a plan for getting it fixed and to be honest, there are no excuses."

The city is looking at revamping their contracting policies and hiring a contract manager. On Thursday, City Council members will vote on whether or not to continue with the consulting group that Conner brought on board.