Elizabeth City Imposes Hiring Freeze In Response To Financial Woes

Elizabeth City imposes hiring freeze in response to financial woes
By Paul Nielsen The Daily Advance Staff Writer Dec 20, 2022

The city of Elizabeth City apparently has instituted a hiring freeze effective immediately.

City Manager Montre Freeman announced the hiring freeze in a memo to city directors and City Council dated Monday.

But at least one councilor said Tuesday afternoon that he had not received the memo.

The freeze is the result of the city’s ongoing financial bookkeeping problems, Freeman wrote in the memo.

“Please be aware that until further notice, all hiring will be put on hold,” Freeman’s memo stated. “The current instability of the audits and uncertainty of funds have played a major part in this decision.

“We realize that some departments were hoping to add and fill positions in a timely manner and we hope we can return to that plan soon,” Freeman’s memo continues. “But caution dictates that we move more slowly for a short time. This would be a good time to review our procedures and find out where we might become more efficient.”

Two phone messages left for Freeman Tuesday afternoon seeking comment were not returned.

First Ward City Councilor Joe Peel said Tuesday afternoon that he had not received the memo even after rechecking his city email account.

“I would have rather heard it from him (Freeman) than you,” Peel said.

The city has not submitted audits for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 fiscal years to the state’s Local Government Commission. The city hopes to submit the 2020-21 audit by the end of the year.

The LGC told the city earlier this month that not getting the two audits completed in a timely manner would directly affect the city’s 2022-23 fiscal-year budget. The LGC said that an interim budget could only provide for continuing operations and cannot include new programs or projects.

“Without a completed audit for FY22, the city will find it difficult to approve anything other than a minimal budget for FY24,” the LGC said.

State Treasurer’s Office Communications Manager Dan Way said the “LGC did not direct the hiring freeze.”

The city’s website on Tuesday afternoon still listed 11 job openings, including eight full-time positions. One of the openings is for a city police officer. City Police Chief Phil Webster said last week that the department has 24 vacancies for sworn officers.

Other listings include the director of Community Development and a planner in that department. There are also two openings in the electric department, an apprentice lineman and a first class lineman technician.