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Selma manager defends new role in Rocky Mount

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SELMA — Town Manager Elton Daniels’ hiring as Rocky Mount parks and recreation director has become caught up in the controversy over embattled City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney.

According to the Rocky Mount Telegram, Small-Toney, the city’s first African-American and female city manager, is under fire for her administrative style and hiring practices. At a Jan. 28 city council meeting, attendees packed the council chambers and spilled out into hallways and overflow rooms.

The audience was split, largely among racial lines, regarding Small-Toney’s performance. The council agreed to have an independent investigator evaluate Small-Toney and, based on the report, determine her future.

Daniels announced in a Jan. 8 Selma Town Council closed session that he was resigning effective Feb. 12 and will assume his new role Feb. 18 in Rocky Mount. Daniels’ salary will be $130,000 per year, compared to $90,000 for his predecessor Kelvin Yarrell, the parks director since 2013. In October, Small-Toney demoted Yarrell to cemetery maintenance supervisor.

In a series of stories, the Telegram questioned Daniels’ relationship with Small-Toney, the increase in salary over his predecessor and his experience in parks and recreation. The newspaper also detailed a 2012 incident when Daniels was cited for driving an unmarked police vehicle with blue lights while working as Sharpsburg town manager.

The Sharpsburg Town Council had assigned the town-owned police cruiser to Daniels as a work vehicle, and he was never accused of activating the blue lights, which are unlawful for civilians to possess. Prosecutors had dismissed the traffic charges.

“I find it interesting that an alleged traffic violation that was voluntarily dismissed in 2012 is news in 2019,” Daniels said. “I don’t have the time or energy to focus on issues like that. As I’ve told you before, my focus is on being a good husband, father, son and public servant.”

Daniels said he’s trying to raise his daughter, help his family recover from damages associated with Hurricane Florence and assist his current Selma staff and council with the upcoming administrative transition.

Daniels also explained his professional relationship with Small-Toney, who has faced scrutiny for dismissing longtime department heads and replacing them with people who are reportedly former colleagues, subordinates and friends.

“I met Mrs. Small-Toney a couple of years ago at a professional networking event. It was right around the time when she started in Rocky Mount as their city manager,” said Daniels. “We exchanged business cards and I offered to assist her with her transition into her new role, as I had ties to the Rocky Mount area having lived there and worked in a neighboring community previously. Since then, we may have seen each other two or three times in various professional settings.”

Daniels said he’s uniquely qualified to assume the role of Rocky Mount’s parks and recreation director.

“Throughout my career I’ve had to wear many hats. I served the parks and recreation department in many instances due to the size of the towns,” said Daniels. “As assistant county manager of Franklin County, I was directly responsible for the county’s parks and recreation department as it was one of my assigned departments. Since Joe Carter’s retirement, I’ve even been serving as interim parks and recreation/library services director here in Selma.

“In addition to my work experience, I’m a former collegiate athlete and have been involved with parks and recreation for most of my life as a volunteer, employee and participant (youth and adult). I would say that I’m uniquely qualified for my new position,” said Daniels.

Daniels also defended the $130,000 per year salary he’ll receive in Rocky Mount.

“My salary in Rocky Mount is within the advertised range and when considering my total compensation package here in Selma, the difference is less than 15 percent,” said Daniels. “I’ve been told that there are reports stating my current base salary in Selma is $96,000, which is inaccurate. I’m not sure why that is being misreported, if that indeed is the case, being that public sector employees’ salary information is considered public information and easily obtainable, through a public record request.

“I have an executive compensation package here in Selma, as do most chief administrative officers within the state, which was considered during negotiations with Rocky Mount,” said Daniels.

Daniels said the controversy over Small-Toney’s job performance doesn’t deter him from assuming his new role.

“I believe the Rocky Mount area has great potential and I look forward to becoming part of that again,” siad Daniels. “My goal is to do my best to ensure I make the type of positive impacts I’ve made throughout my entire career.”

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