That was the statement offered by the local NAACP president on Daytona’s hiring of the minister and community leader. The mayor begs to differ.
BY PENNY DICKERSON
The recent appointment of the Rev. L. Ronald Durham as a full-time city government earning $75,000 per year with full benefits has added fuel to the ongoing adversity between the City of Daytona Beach and the local chapter of the NAACP.
An African-American, Durham’s official title will be asset management director/special projects. In this capacity, he will perform community outreach and other special projects assigned by Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm.
While Durham is a well-respected community stalwart, the recent announcement by Chisholm is deemed as a decision that “undermines Black people,” said Cynthia Slater, Volusia County-Daytona Beach NAACP president.
“The city manager’s appointment of Reverend Durham to serve as community liaison for the city raises the issue of accountability on his part,” Slater told the Daytona Times this week. “My question is, ‘Who is Chisholm accountable to?’ ”
Durham resigned in May as senior pastor of Greater Friendship Baptist Church in Daytona Beach after 12 years. After leaving the church, he became a full-time community relations coordinator for Halifax Health Hospice in Volusia and Flagler counties.
At a Dec. 2 commission meeting, city Human Resources Director James Sexton presented a report that disclosed that of the 35.4 percent African-American population in Daytona, only 18.7 percent of the municipality’s workforce is Black.
The city’s total minority workforce stands at 25 percent. From November 2013 through November 2015, non-Whites filled 33 percent of the city’s vacancies through internal promotions, Sexton noted.
While Sexton’s diversity report fulfilled a previous commission request, the seemingly abrupt appointment of Durham negates the city’s claim to be “proactive” in hiring by posting open positions in public places including Bethune-Cookman University, the F.A.I.T.H. organization and several state colleges, namely the University of Central Florida, Daytona State College and University of Florida. Commissioner Paula Reed had suggested including the state’s three HBCUs: Edward Waters College, Florida A&M University and Florida Memorial University.
Durham’s appointment was reportedly “an at-will position appointed by the city manager,” which had been both vacant and part of the city budget for years. According to reported statements by city spokesperson Susan Cerbone, “Such positions do not have to be advertised or posted.”
“I have worked closely with Reverend Durham on many committees since his coming to Daytona Beach. However, he is not able to, nor is he responsible for resolving the city’s problems,’’ Slater noted, adding that Mayor Derrick Henry has previously stated that Durham is “able to bridge people and agencies who don’t get along.”
Slater related, “This issue has absolutely nothing to do with people and agencies not being able to get along. It has everything to do with fairness and equal opportunities for minorities in city government. With all due respect to the mayor, I hope that he is not being undermined.’’
Mayor endorses decision
In an exclusive interview Tuesday with the Daytona Times, the mayor said he had learned of Chisholm’s decision to appoint Durham just minutes prior to the Dec. 16 commission meeting.
“We usually have a briefing weeks before meetings, but due to my hectic schedule, Chisholm informed me just before the meeting that he had hired Durham and would announce it at the meeting, said Henry who added that he had no qualms about the decision.
“I am responsible for judging the city manager’s performance and his hiring Durham will in no way impair my management. Everyone knows this so it’s not a secret. If I were in the city manager’s position to hire people, Ronald Durham would be one of the first people I’d look to hire because he’s eminently qualified,” added Henry who also said he didn’t ask “Why?” because he really didn’t have time to dissect it.
Slater’s statements undermine
According to Henry, Durham’s appointment was not pursued to “bridge the gap between the African-American community,” but he can’t be certain because he and the city manager have not had extensive conversations. Further, he believes Slater’s assessment or statements regarding Durham being “close to him” undermine the healthy conversation that she has initiated as it relates to hiring.
“My relationship with Durham is a sidebar that I don’t believe to be either relevant or accurate.
My greater concern is the disparity in the diversity data presented and once we contrast ourselves with similar municipalities, we will make assessments accordingly,’’ said Henry.
As for Chisholm, Henry stated the city manager deserves an opportunity to explain his choice to hire Durham to the city commission and, if as a body, or individually, they don’t agree with his decision, then it will be addressed.
“My ability to assess the city manager will in no way be jaded by his city hiring,” Henry remarked.
“Durham’s hiring was in no way made to ensure that I remain loyal to the city manager. I am not loyal to Chisholm; I’m loyal to the purposes and work of the city.”
Slater has stated that the local NAACP branch has been bombarded with complaints from employees from the City of Daytona Beach throughout the years about “unfair practices in hiring and promotions within the city.”
The organization has been advised by its statewide attorney to wait until the commission reports further data at its January 2016 meetings. Slater said she would withhold further comments on the matter until then.