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Durham City Manager To Keep Job, Must Adhere To Certain Conditions

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DURHAM, N.C. — The Durham City Council has decided that City Manager Marcia Conner can keep her job. But the deal comes with several strings attached, including a cut in pay, monthly evaluations and management training.

Between Monday afternoon and Tuesday night, City Council members spent nearly seven hours behind closed doors evaluating Conner's performance and her handling of city contracts. The lengthy discussion ended with a six-point agreement that allows Conner to keep her job and has the council closely watching over her.

"Going through this experience is humbling," Conner said to a horde of reporters and cameramen who had tried to record her every move during the tense two-day evaluation.

Conner shouldered the blame for the city's bungled police-chief search during the summer. She also admitted giving a former colleague a city contract without putting it up for bid.

The City Council responded by cutting Conner's six-figure salary by less than one percent and requiring her to take Professional Development classes. Furthermore, all contracts will now come to the council for review and approval before Conner is authorized to sign them.

The council also will do monthly performance evaluations of Conner and the city employees who report directly to her.

Her annual evaluation will be done as planned. Within 60 days, Conner will conduct an evaluation of city employees who report directly to her and present it to the council.

After receiving her conditions, Conner said she was ready to move forward.

"From here, we put this behind us and jointly make Durham a better place," she said.

"Hey, I'm the city manager of Durham, and we're about getting work done."

Council members, mayor Bill Bell and Conner all tried to downplay the whole saga.

"She understands the age we're at in Durham," Bell said.

Conner went from crying at one point Tuesday to beaming with apparent confidence.

Prior to meeting, City Council members had been flooded with e-mails asking them to fire Conner. A group claiming to represent hundreds of angry city employees sent two anonymous letters.

Conner has apologized to the citizens of Durham and said she is just trying to stay focused.

A contrite Conner seemed to be enough for long-time city employee Alden Jackson.

"The proper reprimand is not necessarily to deprive them of the opportunity to make money for themselves and their families," Jackson said, "not to deprive them of an opportunity to do a job."

Earlier Monday, Conner and the City Council listened to the findings from an audit conducted by the city. The audit found that 132 contracts that were sampled - some of which took place before Conner was hired - broke some kind of city policy.

"In general, we are saying that none of them are meeting all of the attributes of compliance," Bell said.

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