Monday, October 23, 2017

Gary Jackson names Cathy Ball, "Acting City Manager"

Cathy Deyton Ball
A Profile

In the October 24, 2017 council meeting agenda, there is an oddball resolution in the Consent Agenda designating an Acting City Manager. The resolution was put forth by City Manager Gary Jackson in which he goes through the legal requirements to designate an "Acting City Manager" and in this case, he is designating Assistant Manager Cathy Ball.  There will be no discussion of this as it is on the Consent Agenda.

Assistant City Manager Cathy  Ball has been the "Acting City Manager"  4 or 5 times in the last few years during such times Mr. Jackson was absent for those meetings.  Notably, she was the Acting City Manager when the RADTIP budget $26 million miscalculation was discussed with City Council.  However, according to our search, there has not ever been such a resolution put forth before (although Mr. Jackson has been City Manager for 12 years).

The resolution references N.C. General Statute 160A-149 which states:
§ 160A-149. Acting city manager. By letter filed with the city clerk, the manager may designate, subject to the approval of the council, a qualified person to exercise the powers and perform the duties of manager during his temporary absence or disability. During this absence or disability, the council may revoke that designation at any time and appoint another to serve until the manager returns or his disability ceases. (1971, c. 698, s. 1.)
Gary Jackson's letter dated October 16, 2017 makes such designation (click on each image to enlarge for viewing):

So, who is Cathy Ball?

In the event of a longer term absence, Cathy Ball would be the Acting City Manager.  She is the 3rd highest paid employee, earning $219,178 in salary and benefits.  She has been with the City since 1997. Prior to that she worked for the City of Greenville, SC.  She is married to Jeffrey Long who also works for the City in the Facility Maintenance department. Her niece, Amy Deyton, works in the Stormwater Services department as Interim Stormwater Services Manager.

According to her Linkedin profile, Mrs. Ball has had two main roles - Public Works and Assistant City Manager:
  • She began working for the City in 1997 as a City Engineer.  
  • She became the City's Director of Public Works and Engineering in 2009.  
  • At some point she became the Executive Director of Strategic Planning and Multimodal Development
  • In July 2013, that position title was changed to "Assistant City Manager." However, those two roles were still being performed by Mrs. Ball, "She’ll continue to oversee the planning, development services, economic development/U.S. Cellular Center, transportation and public works departments."  (Source: Mountain Express, July 31, 2013, "As Richardson departs, more changes in city management"). She held this dual position until May 2014 when the City hired a new Public Works Director, Greg Shuler.
  • It does appear she continued on as the Executive Director of Strategic Planning and Multimodal Development until July 2016. 
Mrs. Ball holds a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from Tennessee Technological University and a Masters of Public Affairs from WCU (2003).

The City Manager's Office - Turnover and Control Issues
Asheville operates on a Manager-Council format. The City Manager position is hired and fired by the City Council only, an elected body.  Mr. Jackson has been with the City since 2005. His starting pay was $140,000. Today he is the top earner in the City, making $260,367 in salary and benefits. Prior to his hiring the City had one Assistant City Manager.  Mr. Jackson has added a second Assistant City Manager but it's been a rough ride due to turn over.

Mr. Jackson used to have 2 full-time assistant city  managers. But this past June 2017, Paul Fetherston, the other Assistant City Manager left for a job in Illinois.  He seemed quite eager to leave his position as he had been aggressively seeking other positions across the nation for at least a year. Shortly thereafter, in June 2017, Jade Dundas was named "Interim Assistant City Manager."  Looks like the Public Works department is a popular track for City Manager positions. Mr. Dundas had been hired in June 2015 as the City's Water Resources Director. Prior to that he had been the Assistant City Manager and Public Works Director in Iowa.

The turnover hasn't been the only problem.  According to the Asheville Blade, over the years, the City Manager's office has been steadily consolidating control.  In their article, "March of the Bureaucrats" (March 3, 2017 by David Forbes), he notes:
Jackson asserted that Council’s policy-making in the last year had caused difficulties for senior staff “making the trains run on time.” He later changed trains to buses. Ironically enough, buses failing to run on time was actually a major controversy last year, though advocates put the blame on staff for ignoring community concerns.
Jackson wasn’t through, saying that he wanted to remind boards that they didn’t get to decide.
In short, Mr. Forbes noted:
The results of the retreat potentially transfer a large amount of power to senior city staff, a group that already has an outsize influence.
For those interested, Mr. Jackson's original Employment Agreement (click on each image to enlarge for viewing):

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