Roanoke City Council voted to make significant changes to the city's staff Monday as half of the city's six council-appointed positions will now be filled by new personnel.
Police Chief Adam Melton submitted his letter of retirement, while City Clerk Pat Truitt and City Prosecutor Joseph Fuller were not reappointed.
The biggest bombshell of the three was Truitt, who has been employed with the city in some capacity since 1985 and has worked at City Hall since 1990.
When the appointment for city clerk came to the table, Councilmember Tammi Holley nominated Truitt. But as Truitt, who in her duties as clerk helps conduct the council meetings, called out the names of the council members for their role-call vote, she heard four "no" votes to just two "yes"-es.
Holley, who sits on the far left of the council dais, looked down toward her fellow council members and told them, "Y'all are making a big mistake."
That led to a similar response from several members of the audience at the well-attended meeting, prompting Mayor Jill Hicks to have to call for order in the room.
Only Holley and John Frank Houston voted to retain Truitt, while council members Kesa Johnston, Mike Parmer, Bronwyn Bishop and Mayor Hicks voted against keeping her.
"We are grateful for her service, and it's just time for a change," Hicks said when asked about the decision Tuesday morning. "And I know change is going to be difficult, but just give the council time to let things go in the right direction."
At the end of the meeting, Holley expressed her surprise at the council's decision and thanked Truitt for her time working for the city.
Chris Parmer, who has worked in the Roanoke Police Department for the last five years and has a background with clerical and managerial experience, was named as Truitt's replacement by the same 4-2 vote. Parmer began work at City Hall 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Truitt, who was visibly upset following the meeting, declined comment.
The other major change came at the top of the police department, where long-time chief Adam Melton submitted his letter of retirement. Hicks read the letter at the council meeting. In it, Melton indicated that he had been told that he would not be re-appointed to his position and that he had "no choice" but to retire after over 30 years in law enforcement and 16 years as Roanoke's chief.
Jonathan Caldwell, a member of Roanoke's police force since 1998 who has worked in several different roles within the department, was named as Melton's replacement. The vote to approve Caldwell was 4-0, with Holley and Houston abstaining, apparently in a final show of support for Melton.
Melton's departure is less of a surprise than Truitt's. His role in the discipline of officer Derek Farr following a May Facebook post by Farr that many interpreted as having racially insensitive undertones put Melton at odds with Hicks. Prior to her election as mayor, Hicks helped organize a community rally in support of Farr, who adamantly denied any racial wrongdoing.
"You'd probably never get a straight answer if you asked her that," Melton said when asked about it Tuesday afternoon. "But probably. My feelings are, yes, it does go back to that."
Melton said that Hicks requested a meeting with him at 9 a.m. on Nov. 3, the morning after Hicks was sworn in as mayor. The Farr controversy was not mentioned in that meeting, but Melton said Hicks informed him that he would not be reappointed.
"And she wanted me to submit my retirement before the next council meeting," Melton said. And that's what he did.
"Am I happy? No. But life is going to go on," Melton said, before adding that his unhappiness does not include any ill wishes for the department he leaves behind.
"I wish them all well," he said. "Caldwell has got the potential to make a good police chief. They're all part of my family and always will be. That's the truth, and that's from the heart."
Tuesday Hicks defended the council's decisions as part of a big-picture change within the city.
"I'm not a career politician. I have no desire to come in here and tear down Roanoke. I want Roanoke to thrive and be the best it can be because I genuinely love Roanoke," Hicks said. "But I think things have got to be run like a business, and they've not been run that way. I think everybody needs to be treated fairly, and I think decisions need to be made that are going to benefit the majority of the people."
The city council appoints six positions every four years following the election of the council and mayor. Those six positions are Police Chief, Fire Chief, City Clerk, Municipal Judge, City Attorney and City Prosecutor.
Fuller also was not retained, by a 3-2 vote. Johnston, who has a private legal practice in Roanoke, abstained, while Parmer, Bishop and Hicks voted against keeping Fuller. The council agreed to hold off on naming Fuller's replacement until the next council meeting, which is set for Dec. 7.
The council voted to keep Fire Chief Ronald Cameron, City Attorney Clay Tinney and Municipal Judge Ben Hand. Those votes were unanimous, with Johnston abstaining from the votes for Tinney and Hand.
- Bishop named William Morris as her district's representative on the Roanoke Utilities Board.
- Mike Parmer re-appointed Walter Sudduth as his district's representative on the Roanoke Utilities Board.
- Hicks gave the council members their liaison appointments for the various city departments as follows: Mike Parmer - police; Houston - street department; Johnston - recreation department; Bishop - fire department; Holley - library.
- The council also named Alton Joiner to the Roanoke Housing Authority Board by a 5-1 vote, with Johnston voting no.