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Shirley Durham resigns amid controversy
Stacey Harvey new, cool mug.jpg
Shirley Durham.jpg

If a conspiracy existed in McMinnville city government to force the resignation of Finance Department director Shirley Durham, it was partially successful.

Durham tendered a resignation letter to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Tuesday night, stating she would resign as treasurer but remain within the Finance Department as city recorder at the same salary and benefit level.

While those two duties are currently under the sole responsibility of the director, steps are underway to formally divide the two within city code with the treasurer serving as director.

Durham’s resignation was unanimously accepted by Mayor Ryle Chastain, Vice Mayor Everett Brock and Aldermen Zach Sutton, Rachel Kirby, Stacey Harvey, Steve Harvey and Sally Brock.

Chastain asked the board to consider appointing Samantha Moore as interim treasurer until a permanent director can be hired. However, no vote was taken on that recommendation.

The notification and acceptance quietly ended what Stacey Harvey alleged was a “coup, part two” among some city officials.

“Yes, I know it did, and it started last year,” said Stacey, when asked if he still believes a plot existed to force Durham to retire. “They already have Shirley’s replacement picked. The hand-picked successor is already employed within the city and is not one of the most experienced ones in the city Finance Department.”

The first coup, Stacey alleges, was a behind-the-scenes effort last year to force Durham to retire.

“I put a stop to that by threatening to send a Letter to the Editor of the Southern Standard letting everyone know what was going on,” said Stacey. “She’s been a dedicated employee for more than 30 years without one mark against her. I threatened to bring this whole thing out into the open. They backed off. Because that didn’t work, here we go with this.”

The second coup, Stacey alleges, was to separate the duties of the director and allow Durham to remain an employee of the city, but as recorder and not director.

“Shirley deserved to be treated better,” said Stacey. “I understand why she voluntarily relinquished the treasurer position. They weren’t going to stop until they got what they wanted. Obviously. From information that I have been given from other city employees, Mrs. Durham is not the only employee of the city of McMinnville who has suffered this exact same treatment. Everyone needs to know what’s going on inside city government. If you don’t kiss the ring, you’re out. Period. So who’s next?”

When asked whose hand that ring adorned, Stacey stated “That would be city administrator Nolan Ming.”

Ming was contacted by the Standard and given a chance to respond. Mayor Chastain provided one.

“I’m going to answer questions for you on behalf of Nolan,” said Chastain. “Stacey Harvey has developed a track record of speaking without first developing situations and taking the time to gather relevant, contextual information. He was wrong about COVID, he was wrong when he accused the city board (himself excluded, of course), the city attorney, and members of the community of colluding to sell the Blue Building, and he’s wrong about matters pertaining to the Finance Department. He was elected to serve the best interests of the community, not grandstand, showboat, and put himself in the spotlight.”

Chastain declined to address any confidential Human Resource matters within the department, but added that he, not Ming, called for changes to be made within the Finance Department.

“I will tell you that’s it been me, not Nolan, who has pushed for this new organization structure to occur. You can print that and tell Mr. Harvey I said so.”

When asked why he felt reorganization needed to take place, Chastain said: “To help modernize and streamline processes with in the city,” said Chastain. “To expound on what Everett has mentioned previously, both jobs have evolved drastically since Shirley assumed them over 30 years ago. There are so many guidelines, policies, and procedures involved with both that it’s difficult for one person to manage. This will free up Shirley to focus on her duties as the recorder, which are many and very detailed, and the new treasurer to focus on the finances which include departmental and general fund budgets, taxes, payroll, permits, and utilities.”

Stacey Harvey responded to that and said, “The Finance Department isn’t under the purview of the mayor. It’s under the Finance Committee. Chastain signed off on the change, but he wasn’t the driving force behind it. That was Nolan Ming. This travesty goes all the way to the top.”

According to city charter, as it pertains to city recorder, the board shall appoint a city recorder, who also may be appointed to the positions of finance director or treasurer, or both. The charter also states, in regard to a treasurer, “The board shall appoint a treasurer.”

However, the responsibilities of the city administrator are outlined by an ordinance in city code which was passed to create the position. That ordinance says the city administrator has the authority to hire and fire department heads.

“Sometimes code and charter are at odds,” said Everett. “The charter would prevail in that case.”

The exact process that will be taken in hiring a new Finance Department director has yet to be determined.