Local News

Durham City Manager Under Fire After Election Of New Councilman

Posted November 5, 2003 5:36 a.m. EST

— Durham's city manager was not elected into her position. But she may have been voted out of office Tuesday.

Newly-elected council member Eugene Brown said Marcia Conner is an embarassment to the city and must go. Wednesday, councilman John Best met with Conner and asked her to resign.

Brown has not taken office yet. But he knows what his first move will be once he's sworn in as a Durham council member.

He wants Conner fired.

"She has not done a very good job," Brown said. "Everyone knows it, and it's time for her to go."

A year ago, Conner came under fire for questionable contract negotiations and a messy, drawn-out search for a police chief. The City Council cut her pay and put her on a tight leash.

Some current council members do not believe monthly performance reviews are working.

"I feel like I wasn't elected to babysit," Best said. "We should have someone who's competent without having to meet monthly."

Conner's next performance evaluation is in two weeks. New council members will be sworn in Dec. 1.

Brown said Conner has not moved the city forward, and he blames her for low morale, mismanagement and a lack of accountability.

"She's simply not the right person for the job, and Durham will be better served with her departure," Brown said.

Longtime councilman Howard Clement believes Conner has become an easy and unfair target.

"I think it's grossly unfair," Clement said. "She's done a good job. She's made mistakes. Who hasn't?"

Conner refused to talk to WRAL on camera Wednesday, saying it was inappropriate. She said she does not want to get in a squabble with Brown.

Conner's tenure as city manager has been turbulent.

She took the position in June 2001. Two months later, federal investigators launched a probe into $800,000 in questionable small business loans.

She vowed to regain public trust. But then there was last year's lengthy search for a police chief. Conner also admitted to mishandling city contracts last year.

Clement said the city has grown under Conner's leadership. He pointed to a nearly $2 million financial surplus and a reduction in crime. He said he will fight anyone who tries to get rid of Conner.

"It's going to require four votes to terminate her," Clement said. "I'm going to support her unequivocably and without reservation."