Durham County names new interim county manager after firing Wendell Davis

Tuesday, May 18, 2021
Durham County names new interim county manager after firing of Davis
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Durham County names new interim county manager after firing of Wendell Davis

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham County government has named Claudia Hagar as interim county manager.

The appointment comes after the firing of County Manager Wendell Davis last week when the board of commissioners voted 3-2 to let Davis' contract expire.

The board's relationship with Davis has long been contentious and the rift throughout the board was evident Monday.

RELATED: Durham County leadership 'dysfunctional,' report that cleared 2 leaders of racism, sabotage finds

Commission Chairwoman Brenda Howerton spoke out against Davis' termination on Monday.

"To do this kind of harm, it saddens me," Howerton, said. She suggested the vote was rushed and racially motivated.

During Thursday's special meeting, Commissioner Wendy Jacobs moved to terminate Davis' contract effective immediately. Commissioner Heidi Carter seconded the motion.

The vote fell along racial lines with Commissioner Nida Allam breaking the tie.

Commissioner Nimasheena Burns spoke out against the decision.

"Sitting before me ... I see a rope, a knot, and a tree," she said.

Davis, who made more than $200,000 a year, served as county manager for seven years.

Supporters credit him for raising staff wages and keeping the county financially and economically strong.

Howerton said she believes Davis' firing was racially motivated after he came forward last year accusing Carter of racism against him and county staff.

An independent investigator determined the claims against Carter were unfounded but did recommend the board undergo racial equity training.

The report conceded that staffers could have perceived Carter's actions as racially fueled because of her fractured working relationship with Davis.

"You're not just accountable to your white constituents, you're accountable to the black and brown constituents as well, and when you just slap the others in the eye like you don't matter because we have the power," Howerton said. "I really question what the commitment here is. Are you here for the people? Or are you here for the power?"

On Monday, Jacobs released a statement that reads in part:

"We have made a board decision to move in a new direction. I thank Mr. Davis for his many years of leadership of Durham County Government and his dedication and service to our community. I look forward to our board appointing an interim county manager. I am grateful for our outstanding Durham County staff and the extraordinary work they continue to do every day. I look forward to our board working together as we begin the budget process and our focus on important budgetary and policy decisions to address the community's priorities and recovery needs from the COVID 19 pandemic."

Carter released a similar statement:

"The board majority voted to let the manager's contract expire at the end of its 5-year term on June 29, 2021. This was a not-for-cause decision but based on the desire of the board majority for a new beginning. I am grateful for Manager Davis' dedicated service to Durham County and for his contributions to Durham's growth and success. I wish him the best in his future endeavors."