City manager resigns amid storm of controversy

By year's end Wayne Herron found work in Cornelius
Dec. 29, 2012 @ 05:06 PM

Wayne Herron, former Monroe city manager, resigned in July after a tumultuous few weeks including a vote dealing with giving Monroe Police Chief Debra Duncan a bonus and a threatening phone call traced to his home. 

In a June closed session, the council voted 4-3 to not give Duncan a performance bonus based on her CALEA accreditation and the money she saved the city by not retiring. The vote followed on the heels of the Monroe Police Department being sanctioned by a judge. However, the bonus was for work in the previous year.

Many council members, when asked why they voted against the bonus, said they were following Herron’s counsel. 

Herron would not comment about closed session, but later told “The Charlotte Observer” that he would not pay employees not to retire. 

All city employees received one-time bonuses that year, for the first time in many years, as part of the budget. It was revealed that other employees had received bonuses that year, beyond the one-time bonus that was budgeted. 

In a July closed session meeting, Duncan appeared with an attorney. She told the council about an anonymous phone call her assistant received saying that Duncan “was going to get hers and that she was going to get hurt.”

The call was 31 seconds and sounded like it was from a white woman in her late 30’s or 40’s, according to the released transcript of the closed session.

An investigation into the call showed that it came from Herron’s home.

After the testimony, Herron, Duncan and her attorney were excused.

During the closed session, Council member Dottie Nash expressed concerns “with fabrications she stated were being told by City Manager Herron,” according to the closed session minutes that were released to the public. 

Nash gave numerous examples during the meeting and said she could prove what she was saying with Herron’s voice. 

Nash recorded a conversation between herself and Herron in January without Herron’s knowledge. In the conversation, he tells Nash about meetings that other council members stated did not happen. The conversation also touches on Duncan’s compensation. 

It is legal in North Carolina to record a conversation as long as one person has knowledge that it is being recorded.

The tape was given to members of the press and Nash said other council members had also received the recording.

Later that evening, after the July 19 closed session, Council member Lynn Keziah approached Herron and asked him to resign.

He resigned, citing section 9:D, which states that the employee can resign and receive a severance package after an offer to accept resignation “whether formal or informal” by a member of city council as a representative of the majority of the council.

Keziah approached Herron after meeting with Council members John Ashcraft and Margaret Desio and speaking with Council member Freddie Gordon over the telephone.

Herron received a severance of $150,654, his salary at the time of resignation.

Assistant City Manager Greg Demko was named interim city manager.

Herron was recently hired as the planning director for the town of Cornelius. He begins that job Jan. 2, 2013.

City council will hear a report in January looking into the high turnover rate of city managers in Monroe. After receiving the report, they will begin their search for a new city manager.