Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mayor Bowers Will Have No Personal Secretary Beginning July 1st

Joyce Johnson

Joyce Johnson

Mayor Bowers made one last attempt to save his secretary, Joyce Johnson from unemployment. Appearing at a prior Council meeting Johnson, 64, had made threats of a discrimination lawsuit. She indicated that there was friction between her and her boss, City Clerk Stephanie Moon. See Johnson’s statement in its entirety in the links that follow at the end of this article.

If there was any hope that Council would intervene all hope were dashed at Monday’s Council meeting following a closed door discussion.

In a phone call Councilwoman Anita Price agreed with a citizen, George Gunther who spoke candidly about the Mayor needing a secretary. Gunther asked, “what have you all got against the Mayor? I’m so disappointed in this I could eat a whole fried chicken.” This broke the tension with a moment of laughter. Gunther went on to say, “I don’t see how this man stands with all these knives in his back.” He stopped and left the podium saying “he didn’t want to lose what little religion he had left.”

Vice-Mayor Lea responded to Gunther before he went to his seat  … “get your facts straight … the Mayor is not without a secretary.” Gunther responded saying “the word trust is a bigger word then love – the Mayor has to have trust in whomever he has … you don’t change mothers after nine months” indicating that Johnson’s experience as the Mayor’s secretary cannot be replaced by any “Tom, Dick, or Harry.” The exchange of words between Lea and Gunther became heated.

Price said that everywhere she goes she hears “why can’t the Mayor have his secretary?” She said it was more of a trust relationship rather than “just a position consequently its very unique in that sense.” Price admitted that Bowers could have handled the situation differently. Now that Sheila Hartman in the city clerks office is retiring it seemed to Price that it could have been a “win-win situation.”

Moon could have defused the contentious situation by informing all that since Hartman is retiring there would be no need to eliminate the position of the Mayor’s secretary. The budget cut included downsizing all departments by one staff position. That position could have been Sheila Hartman’s retirement instead of Joyce Johnson, the Mayor’s secretary.

During the 7:00 PM Councill session Mayor Bower relinquished the chair to Vice-Mayor Sherman Lea and made a motion to reinstate the secretary’s position on a contractual basis for one year on the basis that Hartman was retiring. Johnson would work 4 days a week with a 20% reduction in pay but retain full benefits. Price seconded the motion. Councilman Dave Trinkle was not at the 7:00 PM meeting. The only “yes” votes were from Price and Bowers.

Councilman Court Rosen was irritated by the whole thing saying, “if we’re going to start making motions as Council people regarding personnel that we’ve had no say in [then] it might be appropriate to bring to Council every department head who had to cut a position.”

Councilwoman Gwen Mason who heads the Personnel Committee said, “that Council does not manage the staff of the City Clerk, the City Clerk manages the staff of the City Clerk’s office.” Mason continued saying, “its clear that Moon and Bowers are having a little bit of difficulty communicating as to how his needs will be met.” The Mayor objected when Mason said that the Mayor did not try to “get together with the City Clerk.” Vice-Mayor Lea had to break it up. Mason stated that everyone on Council wants the Mayor to be successful and Moon’s 32 years on the job is a testiment to her ability to handle the Mayor’s needs.

Vice-Mayor Lea said, “he was not comfortable talking about this in open session” but the motion has been made so they took a vote 4 – 2.

Related articles:

Mayor Bowers Disturbed by Elimination of Secretary Position

Statement to Council by Mayor’s Secretary – Mayor Bowers Makes Statement

Compromise Rejected To Keep Mayor’s Secretary

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Roanoke City Politics

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