The last time Savannah looked for a City Manager — less than two years ago — the process proved divisive and ugly. Then-Mayor Otis Johnson and the other eight members of City Council ultimately selected Assistant-turned-Interim City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney. That decision was widely viewed as having been made because the elected leaders preferred a black candidate for the position.
But yesterday, Mayor Edna Jackson announced after a lengthy executive session of council that she has asked Small-Toney to resign. Confidence has been steadily eroding after an ugly string of problems, including some serious problems in the city’s purchasing department, the hiring of a high-priced emergency management director and consultant with questionable qualifications, and sloppy record-keeping of the City Manager’s own travel expenses. As I noted in a post on my own blog last evening, the final straw for me — as a citizen willing to give her a chance — came when Small-Toney suggested earlier this week that the city divert most of the $19 million set aside for a new arena to renovations of our 40-year-old existing one.
From today’s Savannah Morning News:
Mayor Edna Jackson has asked for City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney’s resignation and, with a majority of council support, will take it to a public vote for dismissal if necessary.
If Small-Toney resigns, she will be entitled to six months’ pay as severance, or $95,287. If council is forced to take formal action, the city manager would receive two months’ pay, or $31,762.
Council will convene a week from today and will hold a special one-hour session at 10 a.m. to allow members of the public to speak. Afterward, they will take formal action, either to approve her resignation or proceed with her dismissal.
Mayor Jackson was an at large member of council when Small-Toney was chosen City Manager, and I can’t say exactly when the mayor’s feelings began to change. But Jackson looks pretty good right now by acting decisively rather than seeing support for Small-Toney continue to crumble.
In the Savannah Morning News article linked above, Alderman Van Johnson is quoted as saying that the city needs “positive, visionary leadership.” I agree completely.