Davison resigns

STEUBENVILLE – Cathy Davison ended her 38-month tenure as Steubenville’s city manager Tuesday night with a verbal resignation notice.

She plans to submit an official resignation letter today.

Her decision to step down from the job ended five days of public speculation about her job status that started Thursday night following a 90-minute City Council closed-door meeting called to discuss personnel.

“I tendered my resignation effective immediately. After months of trying to move the city forward, it has become apparent that City Council and I do not have the same vision for the city of Steubenville,” Davison announced in a prepared statement released Tuesday night.

Earlier Tuesday evening, council met for an hour in an executive session to discuss Davison’s resignation and agreed to a severance package that will pay her four months’ salary and unused vacation and sick time totalling nearly $42,000.

“The city wishes her well in her future employment,” said City Law Director S. Gary Repella during a hallway press conference following the council meeting.

Council members exited the meeting without comment.

Repella said City Council will start the search process for a new city manager in the next week or two.

“She was never given an ultimatum. After the Thursday night meeting, both sides stepped back and thought about what had transpired which led us to this point,” stated Repella.

“My family and I will be staying in the area, as we love it here. As I stated when I first became Steubenville’s city manager, the Ohio Valley is a great place to raise a family. I wish all of the city staff the best in the future, and I commend them for being able to provide exceptional services to the residents and businesses all while working with limited resources. For the residents of Steubenville, I will not be a stranger around town and anticipate continuing my work on projects that promote economic development activities in our area,” Davison said in her statement.

Davison also has been managing the city recreation department since former Recreation Director Troy Kirkendall resigned in December.

Under the terms of the city charter, Mayor Domenick Mucci will serve as acting city manager until City Council completes a candidate search and hires a new manager.

The charter calls for Mucci to be paid the salary paid to Davison and calls for council to hire a city manager within 120 days of the vacant manager’s position.

“Once the applicant is chosen, the said applicant must be on the job within 30 days from the date he or she is hired,” according to the charter.

Davison officially was hired as the city manager by a unanimous vote at the Feb. 16, 2010, City Council meeting and began her job on March 15 of that year.

According to the terms of employment authorized by council, Davison started at an annual salary of $90,000, with job performance evaluations set for Sept. 15, 2010, and then on March 15, 2012, and 2013.

Davison came to Steubenville after working as the town administrator in Murfreesboro, N.C., since August 2007.

She was offered the city manager’s job to replace Bruce Williams on Jan. 23, 2010, following three days of interviews with council members and a citizens’ review committee.

Four current council members who were involved in the job interview process in 2010 said at the time Davison was the best choice for the manager’s job.

According to 6th Ward Councilman David Lalich in 2010, he “was impressed with her intelligence and her dedication to her jobs in the past. Cathy has a vision for our city and she will bring a different form of management to the city. She will also be an individual who will be out in the public.”

“She is bringing a highly energetic approach to the manager’s job. She is a very intelligent person who is continuing to educate herself in the field of government finances. I am also impressed with her ability to communicate with people,” said 3rd Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf in 2010.

Second Ward Councilman Rick Perkins at that time said he was impressed “with her professionalism and her in-depth research into our city. I am happy to have her aboard.”

“I believe she will be a very visible city manager who will be willing to work with the different groups in the city. Our hilltop neighborhoods need some tender care and I am ready to take her to meet the local landlords as well as the neighborhood groups to discuss their issues,” 1st Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto had stated.

But Davison ran into trouble in August 2010 when four council members ordered her to shut down a city Facebook page because of negative comments on the website.

The Facebook page debate continued that month and culminated at a regular council meeting when the late 4th Ward Councilman David Fortunato called for “a vote of confidence from all seven council members.”

“You have done exactly what I wanted out of the city manager. You have been out in the community from day one. You have received a letter of support from all of the city department heads because they respect your leadership. You are doing your job,” Metcalf told Davison at the August 2010 meeting.

She would pass her September 2010 job evaluation and was approved for a $3,300 pay raise effective March 15, 2011, when she completed one year as the city manager.

“I love my hometown. And I really feel at home in Steubenville. And as I told City Council during my interview a year ago when my son was in kindergarten, I hope he will graduate from Steubenville High School. As long as the council wants me to stay here I will be here. My husband changed his career in order to come to Steubenville. And I feel that I have a lot to give to the community. I always try to give 110 percent and I believe in this community,” stated Davison on her one-year job anniversary.

Davison would be criticized in February 2011 by council members for an administrative oversight that required a special August election to consider renewal of the city’s three-tenths income tax issue.

“A mistake was made and the three-tenths income tax issue was missed by everyone. We have learned from the mistake and have now created a master city calendar to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said Davison in a press release at that time.

“I don’t want to point fingers at any individual or department. We are learning from this and moving forward. At least we have reserve money in the bank to maintain our services. It is disappointing because we all worked very hard to create a surplus for the city. But the streets will continue to be paved. Our city services will continue to be done. And the public will not see a change in city services at all. The adjustments to deal with this loss will be done internally,” she responded.

“Cathy had some rough spots and some good spots during her first year. She went out into the community and aligned herself with different organizations and met a lot of people and made a lot of contacts. I hope when we get to the point where we choose our next project, Cathy will want us to get involved in development of the downtown. We have the transportation, the cost of living is low and we have a lot to offer here. But we need to do something about dilapidated buildings in the downtown. We should clean up a block at a time and create green space that can be used for future development,” stated Lalich in March 2011.

“Cathy has been superb and has done a great job in her first year on the job. She has rallied the city employees and now has the department heads working together. Cathy has been and remains a great asset to our community,” noted Metcalf.

Perkins had said he was well aware the average career life span of a city manager, “is only three to five years.”

“So far so good. She has done a good job. I would like to see her make some changes for the betterment of the community as she continues. I know Cathy came in at a rough time with our finances and losing two city department heads almost immediately,” said Perkins.

One year later, Davison received a generally favorable review on her two-year job evaluation.

“We told Cathy she needs to focus on water. We need more water customers and we need to look at lowering water rates. We also need better management of our water system so we are more efficient. We also asked her to concentrate on the downtown and work to move it forward,” added Lalich.

“I think Cathy has done a good job during the past two years. There are some things she needs to change and we reviewed those things. We want her to focus on her economic skills and to work on development of our city’s South End area. We also want her to work with Progress Alliance to bring more business to the community,” Metcalf had said.

“She has strong points and weak points but Cathy listened to us and hopefully she will continue to strengthen her strong points and strengthen her weak points,” noted Perkins.

Council and Davison agreed to a new three-year contract last August that maintained her $90,000 salary.

“Another three years would allow consistency with the current programs and would continue to stabilize our city government. We have already started to implement our 10-year strategic plan that was adopted by City Council and are now creating strategic plans for each city department department. I have plans to utilize our work force in a very efficient manner and to continue to provide exceptional service for our residents, businesses and visitors. I also hope to continue to work with the council to respond to the ongoing changes in the economic development in our city,” said Davison following her contract negotiations.

“We discussed several issues during her evaluation. Some of those issues we will keep to ourselves. We did discuss the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel issue and how it may affect our city. We still have plans for economic development in the South End of the city and hopefully that will become a reality. And safety remains an important issue for us,” Lalich had said.