Rash of ‘Departures’ Hits City Hall


Asheville city hallRS

HR Director terminated; others quit

By Roger McCredie-   A major personnel shakeup at management level has left at least one city department leaderless and others temporarily headed by “loaner” executives from other areas.

Topping the shakeup list is the termination of city Human Resources Director Kelley Dickens, whose departure was announced by an e-mail to all city employees on April 20.

A covering note to that e-mail said that Dickens had been “relieved of her duties” and was “treated respectfully” in the process.  No explanation of the termination was given.

“In all my years,” said one longtime former city employee, “I’ve never seen an announcement that said someone was fired [as opposed to being asked to resign].”

Sources close to the city’s administration, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Tribune that in the wake of Dickens’ termination, General Services Director James Ayers has been shifted to HR as Acting Director. HR Manager Shannon Barrett and Kelly Whitlock, a former Assistant City Attorney who was later shifted to the HR department as Assistant Director, are still on board.

According to the city’s website, the Director of General Services is “responsible for the planning, construction, operation, repair, maintenance, and replacement of all city buildings.”  It was not clear how this custodial position jibed with the requirements of the human resources position.

Dickens was the third Director of Human Resources to serve under City Manager Gary Jackson.  She was hired as part of an overall restructuring of the HR department following a 2010 upheaval in which the then director, the assistant director, and two staffers were all indicted on a variety of charges including obstruction of justice, forgery, and obtaining property under false pretenses.

Meanwhile, Fleet Services Manager Mark Stevens has left city employment and the running of the city’s fleet operation has been taken over by Jade Dundas.  Dundas was recruited from Sioux City, Iowa, last June to be the city’s new Director of Water Resources.  According to the Tribune’s source, a replacement for Dundas has not been named and it is not clear whether he will remain at Fleet Services or whether a new head for that department will be recruited and Dundas will return to Water Resources.

The move leaves the Water Resources Department leaderless at a crucial time:  later this year the North Carolina State Supreme Court is expected to entertain and rule on the City of Asheville’s lawsuit to prevent the state from gaining control of the city’s water system.

Also earlier this month city Compensation and Benefits Director Ashley Lategan quietly left her job.  That position is still open.  Lategan was hired in February of 2014 from Chatham County, where she served as a human resources analyst.

None of the vacated positions is advertised among the openings listed as available on the Asheville city website.

Last month news surfaced that Assistant City Manager Paul Fetherston was being considered for a city government job in Ann Arbor, Michigan, after having been at his Asheville post for less than two years.

Fetherston was hired out of Boulder, Colorado, where he had served a six-year stint as Deputy City Manager.  Prior to that he was Chief Administrative Officer of the Town of Canton, Connecticut.

The website Michigan Now reported on March 29 that Fetherston was among four finalists for the job of City Administrator of the Town of Ann Arbor.  The four candidates were expected to meet the public at an April 14 reception, with interviews by city staff and the Ann Arbor City Council to take place on April 15 and 16.

The Ann Arbor city website offers no update on the candidate selection process and it is not known whether a choice has been made.  Fetherston is still at his Asheville post and was not available to confirm whether he took time off from it to attend the Ann Arbor events.

“Other than the news about Fetherston, there’s been no fallout from any of this,” the Tribune’s source said.  “It’s as though none of it ever happened.”

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