City manager search to begin

Published 9:34 pm Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Judging from telephone conversations with several City Council members on Tuesday, the body is likely to begin discussing plans for replacing departing City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn during Wednesday’s council meeting.

If council follows the thinking of the three who answered the phone or responded to messages left Tuesday, that discussion will take place behind closed doors, a move that could be in contravention of state open meetings laws.

“I’m sure we’ll talk about it in closed session,” Councilman Mike Duman said Tuesday. “But other than that, I haven’t spoken to anybody.”

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Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act allows closed-door discussions about specific employees, but it offers no exception to the rule of public business taking place in public for the purposes of general discussions about positions.

One topic that could legally be a part of a closed session would be a discussion about promoting a specific city employee to take the reins on an interim or permanent basis when City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn takes her new job in Richmond on May 18.

Such an interim appointment seems likely, considering the short time Suffolk has had to process the news that Cuffee-Glenn is leaving. She announced April 15 that she would leave to take the job of chief administrative officer with the city of Richmond.

The announcement came less than 24 hours before the beginning of the last meeting, so this is the first opportunity to plan a discussion after council members have had time to digest the news.

Duman wouldn’t discuss what he wants to see happen but said he considers it “a foregone conclusion that Patrick (Roberts, the deputy city manager) would fill in until we make a decision.”

Councilman Roger Fawcett agreed that one of the first items of discussion should be a decision on an interim city manager.

“We have to make a decision on who is going to lead the city until further decisions are made,” he said.

Councilman Donald Goldberg agreed.

“We’ve got to have a captain of the ship, so we’ve got to get to work,” Goldberg said. “I think we need to go ahead and have a conversation.”

The topic isn’t listed on the agenda that was distributed to the public, but some noted they can add it to the agenda at the beginning of the evening.

“I think what’s going to happen, probably, is we’re going to discuss it tomorrow evening,” Fawcett said. “Then we’re going to go from there. Hopefully, when we come out of that, we’ll be able to address what our position is and what direction we’re going.”

Cuffee-Glenn has been Suffolk’s city manager since 2008, having been promoted after joining the city in 2005 as assistant city manager for development.

Also on Wednesday’s agenda is discussion of the budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2015-2016.