The city government of Charlottesville, Virginia, will not renew the employment contract of City Manager Maurice Jones, whose role during the deadly August 12 rally held in the city has been questioned in press reports.
“Over the past few years, City Council and the City Manager have worked earnestly to try to reach agreement on a mutual vision for the City and the best ways to implement that vision,” the Charlottesville City Council said in a statement released late Friday, adding, “However, it has become clear to us that what our City needs at this critical juncture is a fresh perspective and a new direction.” The statement went on to say:
Therefore, Council has decided not to renew the City Manager’s contract and will move forward with the task of working with the community, our employees, and all of our stakeholders to select a new leader for the City of Charlottesville.
Currently, Council plans to continue to employ Mr. Jones through December 7, 2018, as is stated by the City Manager’s employment agreement. However, an earlier separation date may be mutually agreed to by Mr. Jones and City Council.
We recognize that this is a transformative time for our community, and we will work to ensure that the public is updated on a regular basis with new information as it becomes available. We are committed to creating a healthy and responsive organization that will continue the challenging and rewarding work of fostering a safe and equitable environment for all who live here.
“Council thanks Mr. Jones for his years of dedicated service to the City of Charlottesville, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors,” the statement concluded.
“The Charlottesville brawls escalated when police forcibly ended the court-approved ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Emancipation Park by loudly declaring an ‘unlawful assembly,'” Breitbart News reported in the days following the August 12 rally and counter-rally in the city that resulted in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer when a participant in the “Unite the Right” rally rammed a car into a crowd on a street corner near Emancipation Park.
“Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones is being forced out by City Council” is how Charlottesville’s NBC affiliate reported Friday’s news:
Friday council met behind closed doors from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Afterward Mayor Nikuyah Walker announced that Jones will not receive an extension on his contract that is due to expire in December.
Councilors did not specify the reason behind the timing of this decision and refused to answer questions following the mayor’s statement. Councilors say the closed-door meeting was called by Mayor Walker.
Jones has faced criticism from some councilors as well as community members over his handling of last summer’s Unite the Right rally.
“According to a written statement given to reporters afterward, Jones, who was not present for the brief news conference, said it has been an honor to serve the city over the last 17 years,” the Daily Progress reported:
In his statement, Jones lauded several initiatives that were established during his time as city manager, such as the Growing Opportunities workforce development program, the construction of The Crossings at Fourth and Preston and the public investments in the city’s affordable housing fund.
“We have accomplished quite a deal together during my time as city manager,” Jones said.
“Charlottesville is a special place,” he said. “We have our challenges, like all communities, but we also have the resources, talent and compassion to provide solutions to these complex problems.”
Local reaction to the decision not to renew Jones’s contract was mixed.
“The black community is not at all happy with this recent development,” local activist Don Gathers told NBC 29, who added:
It’s unseeming [sic] that two black men have been somewhat targeted for blame in these issues. It’s a job genocide of black men almost, if you want to call it that.
The other man he’s referring to is former Police Chief Al Thomas, who city officials say retired in December, but Gathers believes otherwise. Both men were in power during the August 12 Unite the Right rally and many fault them for the violence that occurred. But, Gathers believes others need to be held accountable as well.
While two of the key local figures who played a role in the events surrounding the August 12 rally–City Manager Jones and former Police Chief Thomas–are now no longer affiliated with the city government or are soon to leave it, officials with the Commonwealth of Virginia who may have been more responsible for the planning and implementation of security on that day have, so far, not been subjected to similar scrutiny.