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