The Chadbourn Town Council Friday accepted town manager James “Trey” Burke’s resignation, effective Wednesday, Feb. 7, and agreed to pay him three months salary as a “temporary consulting manager.” The vote in a special called meeting was 3-0 with two council members absent.
Burke had been on the job for only ten months. Hired in May 2017, he was not present at Friday’s meeting and his letter of resignation gave no reasons for his departure.
Friday’s eight-minute meeting was in sharp contrast to a four-hour closed session Tuesday in which Burke’s status apparently was discussed and during which raised voices could be heard from behind closed doors, although no announcements were made that the Tuesday closed session was about the town manager. Burke did go into and out of that session several times at the request of Council.
Mayor Phillip Britt presided over Friday’s short meeting, attended at first only by Councilmen Donald Ray Bass, David Worley and Danny Clewis, all of whom voted to accept Burke’s resignation and to ask Town Clerk Pat Garrell to serve as interim town manager (a role she has filled before and has said in the past she wasn’t thrilled to take on).
Councilman James Green did not attend the meeting and Councilwoman Colene Kelly arrived late, after the votes to accept Burke’s resignation and ask Garrell to serve as interim manager already had been taken. However, she did arrive in time to vote, without saying why, against a motion to begin advertising immediately for applications for a permanent manager. Bass, Worley and Clewis voted to proceed with ads. The mayor does not vote except in cases of a tie.
After the meeting, Britt denied rumors that Burke had been asked to choose between resigning and being terminated. Worley, who was named mayor pro tem in December after being re-elected to a second council term in November, had said during his re-election campaign that Burke had not followed council policies in some areas.
Worley would not comment after Burke’s resignation except to say, “He is a young man and I wish him well. I am sure he will continue his career in governmental service elsewhere and be a success.” Britt said that Burke leaves Chadbourn “in good standing” and the mayor said he will write positive letters of recommendation for Burke. Town Attorney Harold G. “Butch” Pope also said he would highly recommend Burke.
Burke’s letter of resignation, although addressed to Britt and council members, was delivered via email to Pope. The short letter was dated Thursday, Feb. 8, and effective Wednesday. The brief letter gave no reasons for his decision and said, “I have tendered my resignation and agreed to be assigned as a Temporary Consulting Manager for a period of 90 days starting on February 7, 2018. It is my understanding that I am leaving the Town in good standing, will be paid my salary for that 90-day period, in addition to all compensatory and vacation time accrued over that time. It has been a pleasure to serve the citizens of Chadbourn, and to work with a cast of truly phenomenal coworkers.”
Burke’s annual salary was $50,000, which means that he will be paid $12,500 for his 90 days of consulting work. Britt said Friday that Burke will not be coming in at the town hall on a regular schedule during that time, but will be available to assist on an as-needed basis.
See more details in Monday’s print edition of The News Reporter.