At the start of a work session meeting Tuesday afternoon in City Hall, Mayor Esther Manheimer read a statement declaring that City Council had “unanimously decided to replace City Manager Gary Jackson effective at the close of business today.”
Manhiemer continued: “We appreciate the many successes Gary has brought Asheville in his 13 years here; however, we believe that making this change now is in the City and his best interests.”
Manheimer and her colleagues immediately moved on to other business and after about an hour and a half moved to go into closed session to talk about lawsuit. Manheimer said City Council would adjourn from the closed session with no further action.
But City Council abruptly returned to open session to formally vote on the dismissal of Jackson. City Council voted unanimously to do so. Under his 2005 employment contract, the city is obligated to pay Jackson his salary and regular benefits for six months unless he starts working for another employer, city officials noted. Jackson’s paid nearly $200,000 a year for his work overseeing the day-to-day operations of city government and its employees.
Earlier this year, Jackson had announced that he was retiring in December. City Council said at the time that it would launch a nationwide search for his replacement. On Tuesday, Manheimer said Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler would oversee the transition to a new city manager, with assistant city manager Cathy Ball serving as interim.
Since the February publication of the police body cam video showing then Officer Chris Hickman beating resident Johnnie Rush the night of Aug. 24, 2017, action on a number of fronts has been swift. The FBI announced it would investigate; Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams charged Hickman with a choking and threatening Rush, and also dropped two dozen cases initiated by Hickman against other defendants. City Council has moved to make policy changes to address other issues that have arisen from the case.