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County manager resigns

By By JONATHAN CLAYBORNE, News Editor
After emerging from a lengthy closed session that was unexpectedly tacked on to the end of the regular monthly meeting late Wednesday night, the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners voted 4-3 to accept the resignation of County Manager Don Davenport.
According to Republican board Chairman Earl Tetterton, Davenport's resignation will become effective April 1.
As part of a severance package, Davenport will receive six months' salary, Tetterton said.
Davenport's resignation was contingent upon board approval.
Tetterton, Republican Vice Chairman Jay McRoy, and Republican Commissioners Hood Richardson and Carol Cochran voted to accept Davenport's resignation.
Democratic Commissioners Frank Bonner, Jerry Langley and the Rev. David Moore voted not to accept the resignation.
The motion to accept was made by Tetterton. McRoy gave the motion a second.
After reading the terms of Davenport's resignation into the official record, Tetterton said, "and to my regret, I had to read this."
When asked to comment on the issue after the meeting, Tetterton, leaving the then-empty commissioners' dais, declined to speak about the matter, saying, "I don't want to cry before you." When asked if he was in favor of the resignation, he added, "Well, I had to be."
Tetterton offered no further explanation.
During the meeting, Moore said, "I am wanting, as a part of the record, to (show) that I am totally disappointed in my Board of Commissioners. I am not in favor of this action, and I think this is the worst move that could be made at this time."
Tetterton asked Bonner if he wished to add to Moore's remarks. Bonner said, "I ditto what Rev. Moore said."
Cochran and Richardson declined to comment. McRoy and Langley left the meeting room before they could be approached for comment.
During a brief interview, Davenport said the move was "probably in the best interest of everyone."
After the interview, Davenport was hugged by Beth Guthrie, chief animal control officer for the county. Guthrie was in tears.
Tax Assessor Bobby Parker shook Davenport's hand.
"Don't give up on our county," County Attorney Billy Mayo said, just before leaving the meeting room.
Davenport's wife, Lynn, and his daughter, Melissa, were in attendance for the last part of the meeting.
Otherwise, a handful of spectators lingered. Before the resignation was made public, one of the spectators asked Lynn Davenport, "How are you?"
"I've been better," she replied.
A graduate of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, Davenport has been employed by the county for 19 years this month.
A board of commissioners may vote to remove a county manager at any time, according to reports. The manager serves at the pleasure of the board.
Rumors of Davenport's departure have persisted since last fall, when county voters elected the first majority-Republican Board of Commissioners in the county's history.
Democrats have ruled the board, and Davenport is seen by some local GOP activists as a symbol of Democratic rule. Others have described Davenport as a sound handler of fiscal matters with a keen institutional knowledge of county affairs.
A source inside the county manager's office has said the Republican majority gave Davenport an ultimatum after the election: Start looking for a job elsewhere. According to the source, the job search was begun, but one employment prospect didn't pan out.
There was no immediate word on when Beaufort County's search for a new manager would begin or how the search might be conducted.
The current manager's salary is $87,414, minus benefits.
The board entered into closed session about 8:50 p.m. The board emerged from closed session at about 9:55. The meeting took place behind closed doors, but, through a window, the commissioners could be seen. At one point, Moore could be heard raising his voice. Later, McRoy, Moore, Cochran and Richardson left the room through a back door, leaving the other commissioners, Mayo, Davenport and Clerk to the Board Sharon Singleton in the meeting room. For the most part, Davenport sat at the table reserved for the management team, but Mayo approached the commissioners at least twice. Near the end of the closed session, McRoy, Cochran, Richardson and Tetterton huddled together for discussion.
For more on the meeting, see Page 8B and subsequent editions.
Jonathan Clayborne may be reached by telephone at 940-4213 or via e-mail at jonathan@wdnweb.com.