Usually a period of sweetness and light ensues when individuals are hired in high-proﬁ le positions in local government. Such may not be the case in regards to Rochelle Small-Toney who has been announced as deputy city manager.
In Fayetteville, her responsibilities will focus on community development in areas related to minorities that will include furtherance of the Murchison Road Corridor, public housing and addressing fairness for minorities and women in the city’s granting of contracts. These assignments are closely related to Small-Toney’s previous jobs in Charlottesville, Va., and Savannah, Ga.
In Charlottesville she oversaw the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. In Savannah Small-Toney managed various community-development programs. She was appointed Savannah’s city manager in March 2011 and was asked to resign that position in September 2012. The relatively short tenure of Small-Toney’s career as Savannah’s city manager was marked with controversy beyond what might be considered normal.
The Savannah Morning News reported that as she took her ofﬁ ce, the city was in the midst of general belt tightening. Still, she chose to redecorate her ofﬁ ce with a price tag of $40,000. That was preceded by a $7,500 welcome aboard party for 400 or so guests that she threw for herself. Meantime the police department was asked to reduce its budget by 5 percent. The African-America police chief had his knuckles rapped for having the effrontery to complain and was ordered to say no more by Small-Toney.
A surprise development shortly after Small-Toney took ofﬁce was the denial by the city’s bonding company of a $50,000 bond for her which is a requirement for Savannah’s city managers. The cause was a problem with Small-Toney’s credit history. But a more serious issue with Small-Toney’s tenure related to unprecedented salary increases for several staffers who received increases of more than 20 percent while city policy permitted no more than 2.5 percent. These raises also occurred while the city was in a severe budget crisis. To the dismay of the city council and citizenry, Small-Toney hired an Emergency Services Director at twice the salary of his predecessor. And, as it turned out, the new guy lied about his qualiﬁ cations and was subsequently ﬁ red for cause.
These issues were among failure to timely report travel expenses, inappropriate travel and convention charges and a purchasing department in disarray. Six months into Small-Toney’s tenure the City of Savannah elected a new mayor, who like Small-Toney, is an ambitious and successful African-American woman. In the year that followed, the mayor and city manager had difﬁculty working together and in September 2012 the mayor asked for Small-Toney’s resignation, which was rendered.
Had the issues that occurred during the brief year and one half that Small-Toney served as city manager been stretched out to ﬁve or 10 years she may have weathered the storm of criticism leveled at her. But the management style that Small-Toney demonstrated to the Savannah City Council, her staff and the people at large was too much and too soon. She clashed with a strong-minded female mayor and it was over.
So the obvious question is which Small-Toney will ﬁll this newly created position in Fayetteville’s city government? Will it be the progressive hard driving get it done Small-Toney that attracted Ted Voorhees or will it be her counterpart that led ultimately to her demise in Savannah?
Hopefully she has proﬁ ted by past errors in judgment and behavior and if such is the case Fayetteville will be the better community.
Photo: Rochelle Small-Toney