City manager of Hopewell resigns and expected to take first place in Petersburg

The Saint Petersburg council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday when the announcement of the new city manager could be made. Meanwhile, a Hopewell lawmaker blames March Altman’s departure on “hostility” from his colleagues.

HOPEWELL — City Manager March Altman resigned Monday night, ending a three-year term and possibly opening the door to become Petersburg’s next city manager.

In a short letter to “the Honorable City Council,” Altman said he was submitting the 45-day notice required by code to the City of Hopewell. His last day in office will be August 5, but he plans to take holidays July 18-22 and August 8-10, essentially making his last official day August 10.

“I would like to thank the city council for [the] honor and privilege to have served the citizens of Hopewell,” Altman wrote in his resignation letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Progress-Index.

Altman had been on leave for unspecified reasons, according to Hopewell Mayor Patience Bennett. When reached Monday night, Bennett declined to comment on Altman’s departure.

While Bennett was quiet about Altman’s departure, one of his board colleagues was not. In a blistering Facebook post, Ward 1 Councilor Debbie Randolph blamed her departure on “hostility and meanness”. Randolph claimed some councilors regularly kick out city staff.

“It leaves the city without [city manager], [assistant city manager]no director of human resources, no director of code, no director of recreation and parks, no budget at the moment and part of the board is currently fighting with our industry in town, ”wrote Randolph. “I don’t I really don’t know how so little can impact so much and so so negatively.”

Hopewell has not had a deputy city manager since Charles Dane stepped down last year to take up a private sector job.

“I’ve lived in this town most of my life and my stomach just aches,” Randolph wrote. “We allow city staff to be slandered, harassed and to work in a toxic environment. Who would want to work where you are accused of lying, not doing your job, all wrongfully?”

Randolph’s statements are an apparent shot at Councilors Jasmine Gore and Brenda Pelham, both former Hopewell mayors who have clashed with Altman in the past. Gore particularly criticized Altman for the city being so far behind in its required financial audits with the state. The administration responded citing issues with budget software and wasted time due to COVID-19.

Since that time, the city has worked to catch up on the reports. A check of the city government website shows that audits between 2015 and 2019 have been submitted, and the ETA for Hopewell’s 2020 fiscal year audit is June 30 of this year. The FY2021 audit is expected to be ready by September.

The Progress-Index could not locate any contact information for Altman, including a phone number. He doesn’t seem to have a profile on Facebook. There is a Twitter account for a @MarchAltman in Hopewell, but this account is not accepting messages.

At its June 14 meeting, the city council voted to appoint Dr. Concetta Manker, Hopewell’s chief information officer, as acting city manager effective June 27. Until then, the council has appointed Jerry Byerly, Hopewell’s Water Renewal Manager, to fill the position.

Altman’s last appearance at a city council meeting was on May 12. A meeting scheduled for May 26 was canceled due to lack of quorum. A live stream of the June 7 meeting showed Altman’s chair on the council dais was empty. At the two meetings since then, Byerly has been seated in the city manager’s usual place.

Altman, a longtime resident of Hopewell, became the town manager of Hopewell in February 2018. He also served as deputy administrator of community development in Powhatan County.

What does this possibly mean for Petersburg

A former deputy city manager for operations in Petersburg before heading to Hopewell, Altman’s name was joked about when Stuart Turille Jr., who was named Petersburg city manager in July 2021, resigned under pressure from the city council. of Petersburg last March. Former Petersburg Public Safety Director Kenneth Miller, who was Petersburg’s interim before Turille, was brought back after Turille left, and last month the board awarded a 57% pay raise.

Altman’s administration came under fire two years ago when it was reported that Hopewell had failed to submit required state audits of its financial records for several years. Hopewell councilor Jasmine Gore, who was then mayor of the town, often criticized the city administration for not responding to her requests for audit information in a timely manner. The administration responded citing issues with budget software and wasted time due to COVID-19.

Like Hopewell, Petersburg had issues with delivering its latest audit. If audits are not submitted on time, it would affect a locality’s ability to obtain state funding for initiatives.

Shortly before Altman’s resignation was announced, the Petersburg City Council announced a special meeting at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The reason has not yet been made public, but it is possible that Altman will be selected to lead Petersburg at this meeting.