On Monday night, Charlottesville City Council finalized a contract for interim City Manager Mike Murphy, who was granted the one-year position at an emergency meeting on July 31. The vote was 3-2 in favor of ratification, with Mayor Nikuyah Walker and Councilor Wes Bellamy dissenting.
Walker, who was not present when three City Councilors voted to appoint Murphy at the end of July, expressed her concerns Monday that his contract provides excessive benefits for a temporary role. Murphy, who is 47 years old, requested for his position to fall under the same statute that permits police officers, firefighters, sheriffs or sheriff’s deputies with 25 or more years in service to the City to retire at age 50.
Murphy clarified that he will only exercise his right to retire at 50 if his contract is terminated by the City of Charlottesville, and revealed that he will not seek to occupy the city manager’s seat permanently — as he “really didn’t expect” to get the job in the first place, even on an interim basis, when the Council offered it to him.
Under Murphy’s new contract, the City of Charlottesville will pay him a salary of $152,475.72 per year, will contribute an additional two percent to the interim city manager’s retirement fund, cover his parking expenses and guarantee his right to return to his former post as assistant city manager — with all of the benefits he previously enjoyed — if he is fired from the new role, or if his agreement expires.
“No one else in the City will be offered that level of protection, and it’s just not right,” Walker told The Daily Progress. She added that the Council’s decision to hold a vote on Monday was too hasty.
Nevertheless, Councilors Mike Signer and Kathy Galvin, alongside Vice Mayor Heather Hill, voted to ratify the contract with all benefits intact, in part because former City Manager Maurice Jones required an immediate replacement. This weekend’s one-year anniversary of the disastrous “Unite the Right” rally of Aug. 11 and 12, 2017, made the matter all the more urgent.
Councilors disagreed over the manner in which Murphy was chosen after their desired candidate, Sidney Zemp, turned down their offer. Galvin, Bellamy, and Signer voted 3-0 to appoint Murphy while Walker and Hill were out of town.
Regardless of the disputes over his hiring, Murphy said that he hopes to do the job well and provide stability for both the City and his family, especially with the one-year anniversary of last August’s tumult on the horizon.
“Our public safety community has been preparing for this for, in earnest, for six months and they have done everything possible to ensure public safety that weekend,” Murphy said. “And we certainly hope that is the case August 10, 11, and 12. I also look forward to the work that’s ahead for both the council and our community to be better after the 12th.”