Charlottesville moving forward to hire city attorney

Prospective Communications Director turns down job

Charlottesville has been without an in-house City Attorney since Lisa Robertson abruptly resigned at the end of 2022The city has contracted with two separate law firms to provide legal advice, but that could come to an end soon according to Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers. 

“We will conclude the interviews for City Attorney this week and my plan is to come to you for interviews in the intervening weeks so that you can make a decision at the next Council meeting,” Rogers said.

Whoever is hired will direct legal strategy for any number of pending lawsuits against the city. Since the beginning of the year, the firm Sands Anderson has handled general government business and the firm Pandak & Taves has handled land use issues. 

Rogers also announced that the search for a new fire chief will soon begin. The former chief, Hezedean Smith, left the position last fall to return to a similar job in Polk County, Florida. Deputy Chief Michael Thomas was elevated to the position on an interim basis.

“Chief Thomas has done an excellent job but I think it’s a good practice to have an open process,” Rogers said. “I’m sure that he will apply and will be a very competitive candidate.” 

There’s also a written report from Rogers with new information.

The search for a director of communications continues to replace Brian Wheeler who left the job in late 2021. 

“The Candidate that was our choice ultimately could not take the job, so we are having to repost for this critical position a third time,” reads the report. 

Other information:

  • The Office of Human Rights has hired Saad Khalifa as an intake specialist. This is part of an expansion of the office paid for initially by funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. 
  • The Office of Human Rights fielded 800 calls between January 1 and April 19, and 68 percent were not related to a complaint about discrimination. The office currently has seven open complaints and four new complaints pending assessment. 
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development wants further tweaks to the city’s Human Rights Ordinance before they can certify the Office of Human Rights for the Fair Housing Assistance Program. OHR staff also worked to assist the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority with helping people complete applications for the open window for the waiting list last month. 
  • Albemarle and Charlottesville top officials will meet in June at a “peer exchange session” at which they will talk about coordination on Court Operations, public transit, mutual aid for fire services, and projects at Azalea Park and Darden Towe. 
  • In addition, Albemarle and Charlottesville are negotiating a new mutual aid agreement and the city is working with the University of Virginia to renew a Fire Services Agreement. 
  • The city is considering further cancellations of funded transportation projects to help with the city’s inability to move projects to construction. Last year Council canceled the West Main Streetscape and another Smart Scale project.  What projects will be next to get the boot? How much progress has been made since last May when the “reboot” was first discussed? (read more in my May 29, 2022 story)
  • Charlottesville Area Transit has hired Kimley Horn to conduct a Transit Strategic Plan required by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. This is separate from the Transit Vision Plan, the ongoing governance study, the microtransit project for Albemarle, as well as the route changes discussed in 2021 but never implemented due to a lack of drivers. The TSP is to be completed by December 31, 2023. 
  • The city has hired a housing program manager to implement the city’s housing policies. That position has been vacant since the summer of 2020. 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the May 2, 2023 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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