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Annapolis acting city manager resigns

International Association of Fire FightersJosh CohenAfrica

The acting Annapolis city manager submitted her resignation to Mayor Mike Pantelides this week, the latest of several staff departures for a new administration that has seen a tumultuous start.

Virginia Burke, who had been assistant city manager under former Mayor Josh Cohen, then acting city manager since January, will stay on with the city for two weeks, said city spokeswoman Rhonda Wardlaw. There was no reason given for Burke's departure.

She becomes the seventh City Hall employee to leave since Pantelides became mayor in December. The first six were dismissals by Pantelides: City Manager Michael Mallinoff, Planning Director Jon Arason, City Attorney Karen Hardwick, special events coordinator Michelle LeFurge and constituent services specialists Eugene Peterson and Kirby McKinney.

Some of those positions have been replaced, but the city is currently without a permanent planning director, city manager and city attorney.

The Annapolis city council has thus far declined to confirm acting City Attorney Timothy Murnane as permanent city attorney, as Pantelides has requested. Pantelides, a Republican, took office in December after he defeated Cohen, a Democrat, by 59 votes in November.

Burke’s resignation came Monday — the same night Pantelides proposed a budget calling for layoffs of 13 employees, keeping 20 positions vacant and requiring worker furloughs. The proposal includes $96.6 million for operating expenses and a $15.8 million capital spending plan. The mayor said his budget does not raise taxes.

Pantelides did not offer details on the furloughs or layoffs, other than to say that no police officers or firefighters would be cut. He said he has to negotiate the furloughs with the city’s employee unions.

Annapolis has 533 full-time equivalent employees.

Carroll Spriggs, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1926, reminded the mayor during last week’s meeting that as a candidate last year, Pantelides promised to honor the union contracts that were being negotiated. Those contracts did not include furloughs.

“There was no shortfall or shortcomings in the city budget. We made tremendous sacrifices. … You told us point-blank that you would honor the contract,” Spriggs said.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Pantelides heard criticism from some residents suggesting he’s not committed to diversity in his staff. Several people spoke, noting three of the employees dismissed by him — Hardwick, Peterson and McKinney — are African-American.

“My concern is it looks like we are dismissing African-Americans and not replacing any of them,” said the Rev. Johnnie Calhoun of Mount Olive AME Church.

After the meeting, Pantelides said he is committed to diversity and that diversity isn't only about African-Americans. He said his first three hires were women, and he noted that he hired an Hispanic liaison in his office. Pantelides also pointed out that two of the department leaders he dismissed — Mallinoff and Arason — are white. “Did they not care about Jon and Mike?” he asked.

The mayor said he would reach out to African-American leaders to hear their concerns, and after the meeting, local activist Carl Snowden announced that the Caucus of African American Leaders is scheduled to meet with Pantelides on March 27. The meeting, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at the Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center, 1101 Smithville St., Annapolis, is open to the community, according to Snowden.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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