Shycole Simpson-Carter, Goldsboro’s former community relations director, said Friday the city is losing its top administrative staff because of working in what she called a “toxic work environment."
Simpson-Carter is one of seven city department directors who have resigned under the current city manager, Tim Salmon, who started working in Goldsboro in May 2019. She is the only former city leader willing to share her concerns about the inner workings of city government and what she says is a style of city management leadership that’s driving staff to leave.
The seven department leaders who have resigned had more than 70 combined years of experience working for the city of Goldsboro.
Julie Metz, Goldsboro’s former Downtown Development director, resigned December 2019. Metz, who started with the city as a planner in 1997, eventually was promoted to the downtown post and during her leadership was a driving force in downtown revitalization that resulted in the city pulling down $15 million in federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, TIGER, grants, which led to broad-sweeping change to the downtown district.
Before her departure, she also worked to lure a $13.5 million mixed-use development project in downtown that is promised to add 63 loft apartments that will be added to six downtown buildings and more than 10,000-square-feet of commercial space.
During the past 10 months, six of 16 city department directors have resigned, with Simpson-Carter being the only former worker open to sharing reasons behind her departure. After she resigned in November 2020, she requested to remain until the end of the year.
In the end, she asked if she could rescind her resignation and stay with the city. Simpson-Carter said Salmon denied her request. She now works for the N.C. Department of Commerce.
Salmon, who receives a $160,000 salary, did not respond Friday and other times this week to interview requests and did not provide any feedback regarding why the city’s top staff have resigned in less than a year’s time.
“I am fully aware of the fact, it is not a common practice in our community for a city employee to speak out against the type of toxic work environment caused by Mr. Salmon, who was my employer at the time,” Simpson-Carter said.
“Nor do I fault any other employee for not doing so. It does not make what I did the hallmark thing to do. But in my 20 years as a professional, I have been mentored by true public servants who were local government and community leaders — who were black and white, female and males.”
When Simpson-Carter resigned in 2020, she said she had reached her “breaking point” and detailed some of her concerns in a resignation letter that accused Salmon of micromanaging employees, being a poor communicator and for making egregious errors.
“He talks to you in such a way that is so belittling as if he’s shouting at a dog,” Simpson-Carter said Friday.
Salmon has not commented on any of Simpson-Carter’s allegations.
Simpson-Carter said she has worked for several leaders with true integrity and courage, including former Mayor Chuck Allen, former city manager Scott Stevens, Shirley Edwards, WAGES president, and former Wayne County Commissioner Edward Cromartie, all she said taught her what a true public servant is and isn’t.
“Because when you look over historical fights against injustice and discrimination we always had freedom fighters that made the first stand or sacrifice for what is right for all,” Simpson-Carter said.
Recent leadership resignations include Ashlin Glatthar, who resigned Wednesday as Goldsboro and Wayne County travel and tourism director; Michael Wagner, former city public utilities director, resigned in August; Jennifer Collins, former Goldsboro planning director, resigned in August; Melissa Capps, former Goldsboro city clerk, resigned in May; and Joe Dixon, former Goldsboro fire chief, resigned in March.
Simpson-Carter said she doesn’t believe department leaders left for other higher-paying jobs.
“You could pay someone a $1 million dollars and they would not stay in that environment and that is a fact,” Simpson-Carter said. “I think some people were scared to say (why they left) and I think some people did say and felt like nothing was going to change so, (they said), ‘I will remove myself from this toxic environment.’
“And I do think some people saw that there was just no other way to escape it. To escape it was to leave. It was not going to change. And I can tell you, more employees are going to leave. The salary that I got at the city of Goldsboro was not why I did my job but I will say this much, I was compensated very well for the job that I did. So the money was not the issue. It was the environment.”
On Friday, in addition to Salmon, Mayor David Ham and other members of the Goldsboro City Council were not available for interviews to share if they have any concerns about losing top administrative employees, including six within the past 10 months.
“We’re working on it,” Councilman Gene Aycock said Friday. “I mean that’s the only thing I can say is we’re working on it. It disturbs us as much as it disturbs anybody else when you lose people who’ve been with you for years.”
He said Glatthar was very disgruntled but said he was not at liberty to discuss what happened.
Aycock said the City Council will look to the city’s human resources department for answers on why people are leaving.
“We’ll have to look at the HR probably first and talk to them,” Aycock said. “There’s got to be a problem there somewhere and I think we’ve got a pretty good idea but we aren’t ready to say anything about it right now.”
Aycock said future discussions about department leaders leaving the city would be done in closed session.
Councilwoman Hiawatha Jones said she is extremely concerned.
“Most resignation letters do not tell the true story,” Jones said. “It would be not wise for the person that writes the resignation letter to really tell the true story.
“Sometimes there’s an underlying story and sometimes there is not but with six people leaving, there is a sign of something that is extremely wrong. I think every council member, regardless of how it’s done, we need to sit down with the mayor first and talk about our concerns and we should have some concerns.”
Jones isn’t convinced that workers are quitting their jobs over pay.
“People do not quit their jobs in the middle of a pandemic,” Jones said. “There are people out there that can’t even pay their water bill, light bill, (buy) medicine. There is something wrong. Where it is wrong, I have no idea at this time but my intention is to speak to the mayor and the city manager on concerns that I have.”
Councilman Bill Broadaway, Councilwoman Brandi Matthews and Councilman Taj Polack declined to return phone calls seeking comment Friday.