Following a closed session Tuesday afternoon, Charlottesville City Council accepted the resignation letter of City Manager Chip Boyles — 10 months after announcing his hire.
Boyles’ final day is Oct. 29.
Councilor Heather Hill said that council is considering options for an interim city manager when Boyles’ tenure ends later this month. Also, according to Hill, it’s yet to be determined how long Boyles will remain on payroll.
The council won’t begin a formal process to search for a permanent city manager until after the election, when two new councilors are sworn in, she said. Hers and the mayor’s seats are up for election next month — with neither councilor still in the race — and will be filled with two new councilors in Jan. 2022.
Boyles’ resignation comes after he received intense backlash from Mayor Nikuyah Walker and some community members for his decision to fire Police Chief Rashall Brackney.
In his resignation letter, Boyles said he was hired to help bring stability to the city, a goal that he said he felt he has been successful in.
“This success was disrupted with my decision to change the leadership of the City Police Department,” he wrote. “I continue to support my decision taken on this matter, but the public vitriol associated with this decision of a few vocal community members and the broken relationship with Mayor Walker have severely limited my ability to be productive toward the goals of City Council.
“The public disparagement shown by several community members and Mayor Walker has begun to negatively affect my personal health [and] well-being,” Boyles continued. “Continuation of the personal and professional attacks that are occurring are not good for the City, for other City staff, for me or for my family. Therefore, it is best that I resign effective [at] the end of this month.”
After Boyle’s announcement, Walker told Charlottesville Tomorrow that his exit perpetuates a narrative that “it’s a toxic environment basically created by me and that he’s deciding to exit now.”
She added that there have been numerous city hall exits that have played out over several city managers in recent years. Charlottesville has had five city managers since 2018, with Boyles as the latest.
“They could all say that they have left because of me. But if morale is down because I have stayed true to the course of ‘unmasking the illusion’ and pushing people past their limits of comfort regarding conversations around race, then I’ll take whatever label people want to place on me,” Walker said.
She said that her efforts to infuse racial equity conversations into policymaking and Brackney’s efforts to make reforms within the police department made people uncomfortable. “Unmasking the illusion” had been her campaign slogan in 2017 — pointing to inequities in the community. Both she and Brackney were Black women elected and appointed to positions of power following the deadly Unite the Right rally.
“What I’ve learned during my time here is that the biggest problem at city hall has been that people have not been on the same page and there hasn’t been leadership to ensure that they’re on the same page,” Walker said. “But the community is not on the same page, so it would be hard to require that of staff.”
Walker said that she believes some of the recent hires Boyles has made were the “right move.” Some of the vacancies Boyles filled include two deputy city manager positions that were created by former city manager, Tarron Richardson.
At the start of 2021, a series of resignations within city hall left numerous vacancies and created what councilor Michael Payne called a “leadership crisis.” The formal national search for a new city manager had come to a halt amid council infighting, months after Richardson’s departure. Following a series of closed sessions, council announced Chip Boyles as the interim city manager — and that while a formal search was planned for 2022, he would carry out duties as city manager.
As the former executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and with experience as a city manager elsewhere under his belt, council members saw him as a key component to stabilizing local government. He began his first day in mid-February, and spoke with Charlottesville Tomorrow about his experience around that time.
In a letter sent to city staff Tuesday evening, Boyles said he had hoped his “stay would be much longer to indefinite.
“Changes occurred, great new hires made and I believe a collective positive direction in morale reborn,” he wrote. “I am and will be proud of the accomplishments that you have made during my tenure and extremely happy to have been able to serve this community with you.”
How did we get here?
- In August the Central Virginia chapter of the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) published an externally-conducted survey that indicated a lack of support and low morale in the police department.
- Boyles co-authored an Aug. 20 news release with Police Chief RaShall Brackney, Assistant Chief Jim Mooney and City Attorney Lisa Robertson that supported the chief and outlined disciplinary actions and the disbandment of the SWAT team.
- On Aug. 31, Mooney filed paperwork for retirement.
- On Sep. 1, Boyles announced that he had fired Brackney and that Mooney would remain as temporary leader of the department.
- Between news releases and during council meetings, Boyles further explained that the content of the PBA survey and a department-conducted survey along with conversations with area stakeholders influenced his decision to terminate the chief.
- In recent weeks Mayor Walker revealed that PBA president Michael Wells had secretly obtained recordings of Mooney, though it’s unclear what those recordings say.
- At an Oct. 4 Council meeting, Walker accused Boyles of being strong-armed by the association’s president to fire the chief. Walker also played her own secret recordings of her and Boyles in which the city manager admitted Wells had tapes on Mooney and that he “has his sights on [Brackney’s] badge.”
- On Oct. 8, Mooney officially retired and former Capt. Tito Durrette was promoted to Assistant Police Chief.