City Council brouhaha: Bellamy dumped from committee chair (updated with video)

Asheville City Council members voted to remove Mayor Terry Bellamy from her lead oversight role in personnel matters at its March 11 meeting. The matter, which was added to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting, didn’t sit well with Bellamy or Council member Carl Mumpower, who called the maneuver “reprehensible.”

In a 4-3 vote (with Bellamy, Mumpower and Vice Mayor Jan Davis against), Council voted to create a standing personnel committee, making new Council member Bill Russell the chair, with Bellamy and Council member Holly Jones taking subordinate roles. Russell, a business owner with 15 years of human-resources experience, was cited as the person best equipped to handle personnel matters by Council member Brownie Newman, who made the motion.

Bellamy created an ad hoc committee on personnel matters after becoming mayor, citing the fact that the Council’s three employees — the city manager, clerk and attorney — had not been receiving annual performance reviews. The committee also was set up to address any other personnel matters involving the three employees under Council’s direct supervision.

The move by Council Tuesday night was seen by Mumpower and Davis as undermining Bellamy’s authority for no reason. Mumpower, her staunchest defender in this matter, said the mayor had performed well in her role so far and that he saw no reason to change things, much less create a standing committee.

However, Council member Robin Cape, who supported the move, noted that Bellamy is the only one with an office at City Hall and has the most direct contact with Council employees on a daily basis. The move, she added, would neutralize the personnel committee. “I think staff deserves the option to talk to people that aren’t in the office all the time,” Cape said during the meeting.

In an e-mail to Mumpower on March 12, Cape accused Mumpower of grandstanding in his opposition to the move and stated: “I have no political gain possible in being a good steward of our employees. Any organization that insists on having the supervisor of those employees doubling as the personnel chair is one in which the operations of the organization are threatened.”

In an e-mail the same day to Bellamy, Mumpower reiterated comments he made during the Council meeting: “Last night’s action by the Council majority (Brownie Newman, Bill Russell, Holly Jones, and Robin Cape) in removing you as Chair of the Council’s personnel committee was one of the more reprehensible and disrespectful Council actions that has occurred in recent memory. The level of self-service in this exercise in classic good old boy power politics was an exercise in shame that should not go unreported. I regret the hurtful nature of this orchestrated event and know that you will press on with the understanding that there has been nothing in your actions as Mayor to necessitate this level of mistreatment.”

During the meeting, Mumpower had scolded fellow Council members, telling them: “Some of you should be ashamed at what you’re doing right now.” Davis, for his part, said he saw no reason to shake up the status quo. “I’m just not sure why we’re doing this right now.”

Russell, looking slightly pained by it all, said, “In regards to accusations of power grabbing and undermining … I think I can serve in a neutral way. It’s not personal. … It’s not some power grab. That’s the last thing I want.”

Click below to watch a short video of City Council’s discussion.

For more on this and the full story on Council’s March 11 meeting, check out the March 19 issue of Xpress.

— Hal L. Millard, staff writer



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7 thoughts on “City Council brouhaha: Bellamy dumped from committee chair (updated with video)

  1. Gordon Smith

    This is some inside baseball that we may never know the reasoning behind. Could it result from the suspicious behavior of former City Planner Scott Shuford, or are there other personnel issues going on?

    Will Xpress be speaking with City staff to learn more?

  2. —– Forwarded Message —-
    From: “”


    Last nights action by the Council majority (Brownie Newman, Bill Russell, Holly Jones, and Robin Cape) in removing you as Chair of the Council’s personnel committee was one of the more reprehensible and disrespectful Council actions that has occurred in recent memory. The level of self-service in this exercise in classic good old boy power politics was an exercise in shame that should not go unreported. I regret the hurtful nature of this orchestrated event and know that you will press on with the understanding that there has been nothing in your actions as Mayor to necessitate this level of mistreatment.

    Please let me know if there is anything I may do going forward to support you in your persisting efforts to uphold your Mayoral responsibilities in good fashion.

    Wtih regards,

    Carl Mumpower
    Asheville City Council

  3. —– Forwarded Message —-
    From: “Leslee Kulba”




    Newman next addressed his desire to set up a standing personnel committee. In one motion he wanted to set up the committee, and in another, he wanted to staff it. He flattered Bill Russell and played up his personnel management experience. Russell would chair the committee, and Bellamy, Mumpower, and Jones would serve. The committee would deal with personnel matters concerning the city manager, city clerk, and city attorney, which are council responsibilities.

    Mumpower said nothing was broken. The ad hoc committee was working fine. New2man was orchestrating a greater bureaucracy. The mayor had limited authority, but one of the very few things she could do was oversee this matter. Mumpower thought her leadership was “appropriate to the task.” He asked that his name be removed from the proposed list of committee members.

    Davis said the matter had more gravity when he discussed it before, but council as a body was the personnel committee. He didn’t see why a large issue needed to be made over such limited authority. The ad hoc committee was working, so he did not know why Newman was proposing this.

    Cape asked what the difference was between an ad hoc committee and what Newman was proposing. Mumpower clarified that the committee in existence was an action committee, and not an ad hoc committee.

    Bellamy said she would not support the suggestion. A majority on council has never constituted a committee as Newman proposed. The impact could adversely affect the lives of three important people. The mayor has always taken the lead in the personnel matters in question with one exception. That was when four members of council voted to fire the city manager. She didn’t know why anybody would feel the need to change the matter now.

    It was Jones’ turn to flatter Russell. He was gifted with fifteen years of personnel management. Bellamy said she had served on a state panel overseeing personnel matters and has mayor has had to make personnel decisions. That gave her ten years’ experience. She didn’t see why she was being unseated as the chair of the action committee.

    Cape said council members don’t have an office in city hall like Bellamy does. Bellamy is in contact with the people in question every day.

    Mumpower said it was evident that something was going on outside the conversation. He wasn’t going to try to guess what it was. The current action was “one of the most reprehensible and disrespectful” things he had seen perpetrated against a mayor, “if not the single most.” Some members of council should be ashamed of themselves.

    Bellamy said Cape’s arguments could hold water, but she didn’t see why she had to be removed as chair of the committee. It didn’t make sense.

    Russell said the accusations of a power grab or an undermining coup were unfounded. He felt he had the ability to serve on the committee in a neutral manner. He meant no disrespect.

    Mumpower said there was intent to indirectly address an issue, and he was not going to back down from his assertions.

    Russell said that four personnel changes have occurred in one small portion of the building in a very short period of time. Trying to address this did not constitute a power grab.

    Mumpower said none of those changes were under council’s purview. Two retired, one is moving, one was serving only on a rotating basis, one was promoted. Mumpower said if he suspected the mayor of wrongdoing, he would respectfully confront her with the issue rather than orchestrating a new committee.

    Council approved establishing the three-member committee 4-3, Bellamy, Davis, and Mumpower opposed. They approved staffing the committee sans Mumpower by the same vote.

  4. Jimbo

    Since her election, the Mayor has availed herself of undue liberties with council staff and city staff by proxy. Being the only elected official entitled to use an office in City Hall, she has much more opportunity to abuse that office for political or personal gain. It can be utilized to place great and constant pressure upon the three employees council has any authority to work with, in addition to pressuring the hand of the city manager on issues of city staff hiring practices, selection, placement and allocation of new positions.

    No elected official under the law of local government in Asheville has authority to hire or fire any city employee. Only the City Manager, Clerk and Attorney work for Council. To understand the real story behind this latest drama, one only needs to consider the new positions, promotions, hirings and firings (retirements/resignations/trasfers if you prefer) that have gone on in city hall under the current Mayor’s tenure. Department directors and those positions in close proximity to the Mayor are most alarming.

  5. travelah

    Jimbo, can you identify a single instance where there has been an abuse of her power? Since when is having an office near the people you are responsible for subject to questioning?

    This is more faux prog horse hockey and it’s a shame to Russell sucked up into it. My opinion of him just went down.

  6. 9-volt

    In some ways it makes sense to have the only person overseeing daily work of the council’s employees also be the primary person doing annual personnel reviews. However, this could also lead to an authoritarian type relationship that lacks a broader perspective on crucial personnel management.

    Regardless of either side’s questionable leverage or intentions, it sounds like a minor tweak in an effort to improve the management of city personnel.

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