Fayetteville’s city manager, Ted Voorhees does not need to make statements that might suggest low level paranoia. On July 14, Voorhees attended a community watch meeting at MacPherson Presbyterian Church, where his recent comments were at best impolitic and at worst deliberately accusatory.
The comments centered around the community’s public utility, PWC, which has been a bone of contention for much of the past two years. At the meeting, Voorhees, responding to general audience criticism of slow sewer extension work, suggested that PWC was purposely delaying sanitary sewer-line extension work to make him look bad.
That is ridiculous when one considers how little, if any, the city manager’s role is in executing PWC’s construction activities. Nonetheless, Voorhees took the opportunity while in front of a receptive audience to further his argument that he, the city manager, should be in control and in charge of the PWC.
He further noted that all four of the PWC commissioners, who are appointed by the city, should be fired. The clear implication was that things would move faster if he was at the helm. Such posturing by a non-elected official is unseemly and definitely not within his job description. But suggesting commission members are setting him up is unacceptable conduct and it attempts to impugn the character of commission members, all of whom are well-known and respected in the community.
This latest dust-up between Voorhees and the PWC is nothing more than petulance by the city manager. This is not the first, and probably not the last time, we have seen this unprofessional, unseemly side of Voorhees, who tested his hand and influence shortly after assuming the city manager role.
One of his first moves after entering city hall was directed at PWC. We all know how well that worked out for him. A stand-off between Voorhees and the PWC Commission resulted in a lawsuit between the city and the utility, which quickly brought to light that support for uprooting the PWC 100- year-old plus charter was not as forthcoming among city council members as Voorhees may have anticipated.
In the kerfuffle that has followed, a bill was introduced by Rep. John Szoka that will provide more, not less autonomy to the PWC. This bill and a similar one in the N.C. Senate will produce a blended legislative document that will end the fight but not the hardened attitudes.
The bill should have been an excellent example for Voorhees of being careful what you wish for — you might just get it.