Monroe city council hires city manager amid controversy

MONROE, N.C. — The city of Monroe has been without a permanent leader after the city council abruptly voted two weeks ago to fire its city manager and city attorney.

That changed Tuesday night.

City council members hired Mark Watson as the new city manager.

Watson is a former Union County manager who was fired last year and is currently under investigation for malfeasance.

The minority of the city council accused the majority of firing the city’s attorney and manager with the sole intention of hiring Watson.

The City of Monroe said Thursday that its assistant city attorney was at the meeting and that there were no violations of city procedures or state law.

“It’s simply not good business,” said Councilman Freddie Gordon.

Councilman Lynn Keziah didn’t see a problem with it and said this was an opportunity the city of Monroe could not pass up.

“Mr. Watson has a tremendous reputation,” Keziah said. “He’s a good man and when you find someone like you, try to take advantage of that.”

The change will cost taxpayers more than $700,000 in severances and new salaries.

Keziah said it was worth it for taxpayers.

“I think he’s worth that and more,” Keziah said.

Mayor Marion Holloway said, “It’s kind of an unusual way to have it done but it’s done now.”

There was no application or interview process in hiring Watson.

“There wasn’t an interview process. How do you know you made the right decision if you didn’t vet any other candidates?” Channel 9′s Genevieve Curtis asked.

“By his experience,” Keziah answered. “It’s just like if I’m a football coach. If I win 99 and lose one, I must be pretty good.”

The mayor voted against firing the former city manager and against hiring Watson but says it’s time to work together.

“We don’t have the best reputation for keeping city managers and hopefully that can change with marks hiring,” the mayor said.

Hiring the city manager wasn’t on the agenda for Tuesday night’s meeting and it happened during the closed session, which was voted on afterward.

The search for a city attorney is ongoing.

VIDEO: Monroe City Council votes to fire city manager and city attorney