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Hiring of deputy city manager prompts proposed code change

The Charlottesville City Council could extend its oversight of the city manager’s hiring of a second in command.

During its meeting Monday, the council will consider amending city code in the wake of some of City Manager Tarron Richardson’s shakeups to management organization.

The code change would require that the deputy city manager/chief operating officer must be approved by the City Council before someone can be hired for the post.

As part of his reorganization, Richardson initially created four deputy city managers.

Assistant City Manager Mike Murphy took one of those positions. Public Works Director Paul Oberdorferer and former Assistant City Manager Leslie Beauregard were appointed as interim deputy city managers.

Those three positions were to report to the fourth position, which was filled by Letitia Shelton and also would carry the role of COO. Shelton, who was Richardson’s deputy city manager in DeSoto, Texas, is effectively the second in command and has the authority of the city manager in Richardson’s absence.

“Mayor [Nikuyah] Walker believes that, in consideration of the authority that a Deputy City Manager/Chief Operating Officer exercises upon city affairs, the Council should approve a candidate before the City Manager hires someone for this position,” City Attorney John Blair wrote in a staff report.

The position was advertised from May 28 to June 4 and 42 people applied, according to the city. City spokesman Brian Wheeler said that no community panels conducted interviews along with the city manager for the position.

The city would not release the names of applicants in response to a request through the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

Shelton, who does not have an employment agreement or contract, started on July 29 at an annual salary of $158,000.

In August, Beauregard took a job as assistant city manager in Staunton after 16 years in Charlottesville.

Richardson later said Shelton would assume those duties and the city would only have three deputy city managers.

The staff report also mentions that all departments are now required to appoint a deputy director.

The code revision is on the council’s consent agenda. The staff report says that if it is approved, it would not apply to Shelton, only her successors.

The measure would require a second reading at the Dec. 16 meeting.

Artful Lodger site

In other business, the council will get a final look at a proposed high-rise on the Downtown Mall.

Councilors will review Heirloom Development’s special-use permit request for a 101-foot-tall, mixed-use building.

Developer Jeff Levien needs a permit to increase the allowable height and density for the project from 70 feet and 24 units to 101 feet and 134 units.

The proposed structure would sit on Market Street on the current site of The Artful Lodger, The Livery and other small businesses. If a building permit is approved, the existing buildings will be demolished.

The Planning Commission reluctantly voted 5-1 to recommend approval of the permit in November. Commissioners were frustrated that the number of units wasn’t finalized and that the developer wouldn’t say if any would be affordable.

In a letter to the city, the developer notes that units will be offered at “a variety of price points.”

Heirloom also is behind the proposed 602-616 W. Main St. complex and the under-construction 600 W. Main St. property. Prices for the latter development range from $1,499 for a studio apartment to $4,090 for a three-bedroom unit.

For the Artful Lodger site, the permit would require Milestone Partners, Heirloom’s local representative, to create a protective plan for the building at 110 Old Preston Ave., which was constructed in 1949 and sits behind Lighthouse Studio and the Vinegar Hill Theatre. The plan would cover safeguards and monitoring procedures for the building during construction.

The plan must, at a minimum, include a baseline survey of the building, including written descriptions and visual documentation. It must include work with a third-party structural engineer.

Milestone also must prepare a separate protective plan that includes seismic monitoring and any other measures recommended by the engineer.

The neighboring property owners must be given at least two weeks notice of demolition or construction activity at the site.

The report and plans must be submitted and reviewed by the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development Services before any demolition or building permits are issued.

Heirloom is under contract to purchase the Lodger property, which is owned by Market Street Promenade LLC and valued at $3.2 million.

Office of equity

At its meeting Monday, the council also will consider creating a department of equity and inclusion.

In October, the council received a report from the city manager’s advisory committee on equity and asked for more information on funding and structure.

The staff report attached to Monday’s agenda is virtually the same as what was presented in October. The only change is that the office would require $113,596 to create rather than the $191,000 estimated at first.

The committee studied data on city employees by race, job category and salary. It also reviewed equity measures in other communities.

Of the city’s 935 full-time employees, about 71% are white, 23% are black and 6% are another race or of mixed race, according to the report. Charlottesville’s population is 69.7% white and 18.7% black.

Black employees make on average 17% less per hour than white employees. For white employees, the average is $25.60, compared with $21.30 for black employees. These figures are for wages overall and do not compare the pay of people in the same job.

The committee recommended creating an equity advisory team to lead a culture change in the city. The 10- to 12-member committee would include one councilor and representatives from city staff, management and the community.

Another recommendation was creating the department of equity and inclusion to lead equity efforts.

The office would include a data analyst and community engagement coordinator who report to the city manager. It also would influence policy and implement recommendations from the equity advisory team in concert with the city manager’s office.

Refugee resettlement

The council also will consider authorization for the city to accept refugees as required under an executive order issued by President Donald Trump in September.

The order requires state and local governments to consent in writing before refugees can arrive.

Gov. Ralph Northam provided the state’s letter of consent in November.

Three resettlement agencies have challenged the new policy in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Maryland, The Associated Press reported.

The council meets at 6:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 605 E. Main St.


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