Charlottesville may go another a year without a permanent city manager.
Charlottesville City Council has renewed its contract with the Robert Bobb Group for an additional six months to continue providing interim city management services. The Monday vote extends the contract with Bobb which has been in effect since January. The contract was initially set to expire June 30. The Bobb contract will now end Dec. 31.
Councilors said they opted to delay hiring a city manager until they can first hire a permanent police chief.
The city previously projected to hire a permanent city manager in spring 2022, but based on the timeline for the police chief hiring process, it’s unlikely a permanent city manager will assume the position before the end of the year.
“They’re both very important positions. They both need to be filled,” said Mayor Lloyd Snook after the meeting. “But we just need to have some degree of permanency and stability to the leadership of the police department.”
The city is accepting proposals for a consulting firm to hire a police chief. Snook said ideally, once a firm is selected in July, the city will start recruiting for police chief candidates in August, begin interviews in September, and plan for the selected candidate to start in October if possible.
“That would be an ambitious schedule, but it’s doable,” Snook said.
That means at best, the hiring process for a city manager would not start until September or October.
“Council feels that the city manager’s office is currently stable and functioning at a high level. The police department, though having stabilized in recent months during the initial term of the contract with The Robert Bobb Group, remains in a more fragile situation,” the resolution passed by councilors on Monday states.
The city hired the Robert Bobb Group, LLC at the end of December after former City Manager Chip Boyles resigned in October and the city’s candidate for interim city manager, Marc Woolley, pulled out of the position before his start date. City Council selected Michael C. Rogers out of a group of candidates the firm put forward to act as interim city manager for the duration of the firm’s contract with the city.
According to Council Clerk Kyna Thomas and City Attorney Lisa Robertson, the contract renewal aligns with the original management contract and only the timeline has changed to reflect the new six-month extension. City spokesman David Dillehunt said the monetary amount being paid to the Robert Bobb Group for the extension is $155,000. However, the city does not pay Rogers a salary directly.
“The Robert Bobb Group determines how much of that total amount is paid to Mr. Rogers for his services,” Dillehunt said in an email.
The Robert Bobb Group did not respond to a request from The Daily Progress for Rogers’ salary by press time.
Snook said the delay in hiring a new police chief and new city manager was because of the city budget process that ended in April.
“It’s hard for folks who are not in City Hall to realize the extent to which the budget dominates the city manager’s office. And the city manager is responsible for hiring the police chief and we’re responsible for hiring the city manager. During budget season, very little else is going to happen except for the budget,” Snook said.
Snook said this year was a “more complex” budget process because of negotiations with the school board about funding the schools reconfiguration project.
As for prioritizing hiring a police chief before a city manager, Snook said that’s partly because the city feels it’s crucial to stabilize the police department and that the city feels that Rogers and the contracted firm are functioning well. The city has been without a permanent police chief since September, when then-City Manager Chip Boyles fired Chief RaShall Brackney.
“The police situation is a little bit more tenuous,” Snook said.
Snook said he has concerns that officers could leave to work elsewhere.
“[Interim Chief] Tito Durrette has done a very good job of stabilizing the situation. And this decision should not be considered to be an anti-Tito Durrette decision,” Snook said. “It’s simply a recognition that there are more potential problems with police turnover and so on and we’re more worried about that right now. We want to get that nailed down and start moving forward on that, and then we can hire a permanent city manager. When we choose the police chief, we want to make sure we get the right police chief,” he said.
Snook said he would like to see the city hire a consulting firm for the city manager search like the city is doing for the police chief hiring process.
“When you get one of these consulting firms, the headhunter firms, they vet the candidates more carefully than I think Charlottesville has vetted its candidates recently,” Snook said.