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Council to conduct performance evaluation of city manager

Charlottesville City Manager Tarron Richardson is up for a $10,000 raise.

The City Council will conduct Richardson’s performance evaluation in a closed session prior to its meeting on Monday.

Richardson started in May and his contract includes a clause for a performance evaluation this month.

If he receives a “satisfactory” evaluation, his salary increases from $205,000 to $215,000.

The council conducted a similar evaluation with Police Chief RaShall Brackney last year. On Jan. 1, her contract guaranteed that she got a 3% increase.

In October, the council held a four-hour closed session to discuss Richardson’s job performance.

Councilors declined to comment at the time about the specifics of the meeting, saying only that it was being held because Richardson was approaching the six-month mark of his tenure. The meeting came before a provision in his contract that increased his severance if he were to be fired.

During his tenure, Richardson has overhauled management and revised the city’s budgeting process. His time in office hasn’t been free of hiccups.

For example, the October closed session came shortly after the city released a request for proposals for firms to design a massive consolidation of city and school administrative offices and then canceled it two days later, citing its short deadline. Richardson later said the RFP was only for a space study.

The Planning Commission voiced frustration that the panel wasn’t involved in the process of crafting the city’s Capital Improvement Program this year, the first for Richardson in Charlottesville. The panel later recommended that the council not adopt the proposal.

Richardson’s time in office also has seen the departure of several high-ranking officials, including the retirement of Parks and Recreation Director Brian Daly and Human Resources Director Galloway Beck. At least five other high-ranking or longtime appointees have resigned, including Assistant City Manager Leslie Beauregard and Deputy City Manager Mike Murphy, who was interim city manager before Richardson’s hiring.

Murphy resigned this month, although he will remain on the payroll through Oct. 31, 2020, and is on administrative leave until then. Murphy declined to provide additional information on his resignation during an interview earlier this month.

The reasons for the departures remains a mystery to those outside City Hall. The city has cited a personnel records exemption in refusing to provide resignation letters in response to a request under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, although it previously has provided copies of the letters, such as that of former Clerk of Council/Chief of Staff Paige Rice.

Monday also will be the final meeting for Councilors Wes Bellamy, Mike Signer and Kathy Galvin, ushering in a city administration with virtually no leaders remaining who were in office during the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally.

Bellamy and Signer chose not to seek re-election to a second four-year term. Galvin, the council’s senior member, did not seek a third term, instead running, unsuccessfully, for the Democratic nomination to represent the 57th District seat in the House of Delegates.

Bellamy and Signer made international headlines starting in 2016 with Bellamy joining the call to remove Confederate statues in the city, drawing the ire of some local residents and white supremacists online.

Later that year, Jason Kessler, an organizer of Unite the Right, reposted homophobic, sexist and racist tweets that Bellamy posted in his 20s. Kessler later filed a petition to remove Bellamy from office, but it was dismissed in court.

Signer served as the city’s mayor during the events of 2017. Following the inauguration of President Donald Trump and his implementation of a travel ban on Muslim-majority countries, Signer declared Charlottesville the “Capital of the Resistance.”

In organizing the 2017 rally, Kessler used the statue controversy and “resistance” declaration as a rallying cry for various far-right and racist factions to coalesce as a political movement, with the help of Richard Spencer and other far-right leaders.

Kessler’s movement culminated in James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio driving his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring about three dozen people.

Signer also came under fire for the way he conducted City Council meetings before and after the rally, with critics saying he was too heavy-handed in policing public comment and that council did not do enough to prevent the rally and violence.

By year’s end, seven of the 10 elected officials in Charlottesville’s government on Aug. 12 — not including the School Board — will be gone. The only ones remaining are Commissioner of the Revenue Todd Divers, Treasurer Jason Vandever and Clerk of Court Llezelle Dugger.

In addition to Bellamy, Signer and Galvin, Councilor Kristin Szakos, Sheriff Chip Harding and Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Chapman did not seek re-election at the end of their terms, while Councilor Bob Fenwick lost the 2017 Democratic primary. Fenwick again sought the party’s nomination in 2019, but was unsuccessful.

The high-ranking level of the city’s appointed government also has nearly entirely changed since the rally, including the city manager, police chief, communications director, city attorney, clerk of council and director of Charlottesville Area Transit.

The City Council meets at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 605 E. Main St. The council will enter closed session starting at 5 p.m.


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