Town Manager Seth Lawless is resigning from the job he has held since 2010 with little explanation from the manager or the town.
Lawless tendered his resignation letter during an hour-long closed session with the Town Council at the conclusion of a regular council meeting Monday, June 6.
Lawless had just returned from a nearly three-month temporary health leave at the end of April.
Reached for comment the day after the meeting, Lawless said he was not ready to elaborate on his departure, but said he might have more to say as June 30, the effective date of his resignation, draws closer.
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“Seth is leaving to pursue other opportunities,” Mayor James Roberson said in a statement released Tuesday, June 7. “We will miss him and wish him and his family well in future endeavors.”
Roberson’s statement did not address whether the town would be hire an interim manager or mention anything about the search process for Lawless’ replacement. Roberson did not return messages left for him Tuesday and Wednesday.
The town brought on a part-time acting manager for about two months on a contract basis while Lawless was out on leave.
In his statement, Roberson commended Lawless’s work.
“The town will miss him and his dedicated service to our community. During his tenure, we have seen the population of Knightdale more than double, with ever increasing demands for services. Under his leadership and direction, he and his team have moved a number of Council goals forward.”
The statement goes on to praise Lawless for accomplishments including: exceeding the town’s effort to have fund balance reserves at 40 percent of operating funds, doubling the number of paid firefighters and providing new town services and facilities.
“Because of the oversight of our expenditures and budgeting process,” Roberson said, “Seth is leaving Knightdale in great financial shape. ... He leaves us in an excellent position to meet the future needs and expectations of our citizens.”
Lawless’s tenure was not without controversy. Lawless had to deal with issues surrounding low employee morale early in his tenure after employee surveys revealed an environment of distrust between employees and their managers. He also pushed the town’s finance director out after problems with the handling of grant fund reporting and he suspended another department manager after it was learned she had awarded informal contracts to a woman with whom she owned property.
Lawless also drew fire for a decision to prohibit relatives from working or volunteering within the same agency. That decision prompted the termination of some firefighters and led to the departure of some volunteer firefighters.
At Monday’s meeting, Lawless left the Town Council chambers as the council was about to go back into open session. Immediately after the meeting returned to open session, Roberson announced that Lawless had provided the council with a letter of resignation, and the council then voted unanimously to accept it.
Lawless had served as assistant town manager since 2006 before being appointed town manager in 2010. Before coming to Knightdale, he had worked for the towns of Franklinton, Beech Mountain and Nags Head.
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826