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October 30, 2018

Warrenton council votes,    5-2, to fire town manager

File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Brannon Godfrey came to Warrenton from Portsmouth in October 2015. He previously worked as a manager in Winchester, Culpeper and Emporia.
It’s a tough job, but he has my respect, and I’m glad to call this guy a friend of mine.
— Councilman Jerry Wood, who opposed the firing
J. Brannon Godfrey Jr.
• Age: 53

• Work: Warrenton town manager, Oct. 5, 2015-Oct. 30, 2018.

• Salary: $155,000.

• Experience: Interim city manager, Portsmouth, 2015; deputy city manager, Portsmouth, 2009-15; city manager, Winchester, 2008-09; town manager, Culpeper, 2001-07; city manager, Emporia, 1995-2001; town manager, Brandon, Vt., 1992-95; assistant to city manager, Goldsboro, N.C., 1989-92; management intern, City of Rock Hill, S.C., 1987-88.

• Education: Master’s degree, public management, University of North Carolina, 1989; bachelor’s, government, University of Virginia, 1987.

• Family: Wife, Leslie; sons, Collier and Harrison.

• Hobbies: Outdoor sports, including kayaking, fishing and duck hunting.

Warrenton Town Managers

• Brannon Godfrey, Oct. 5, 2015-Oct. 30, 2018

• Ken McLawhon, 2002-14

• John Anizvino, 1989-2001

• Don Smith, 1986-89

• Ed Brower, 1962-86

• P.W. Ancell, 1960-62

• Sidney Shumate, 1923-60

• J.W. Shirley, 1920-23

• L.M. Clarkson, 1920

> Source: Town of Warrenton
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
After three hours in closed session, Warrenton’s council late Tuesday night voted, 5-2, to fire Town Manager Brannon Godfrey.

Technically, the council terminated Mr. Godfrey’s contract, scheduled to run through June 2019, and agreed to pay him $77,500 in cash, equal to half a year’s salary. The contract includes that buyout clause.

> Contract at bottom of story

The unprecedented decision ended a tense relationship that resulted in three closed council meetings over the last 11 months to discuss the manager’s performance.

Renard Carlos (At-large) and Jerry Wood (Ward 1) voted against terminating Mr. Godfrey’s contract Tuesday after the council reconvened in open session at 10:11 p.m.

Before the vote, Mr. Wood called the 53-year-old manager “a good person . . . concerned for what the citizens want.” The councilman, in a 12-minute speech read a long list of Mr. Godfrey’s accomplishments over the last three years, calling him “accessible and visible.”

Mr. Wood added: “It’s a tough job, but he has my respect, and I’m glad to call this guy a friend of mine.”

Elected to his first term in May, Mr. Carlos said he agreed with many of Mr. Wood’s observations about the manager and lacked “enough information” to support the termination.

The council also voted 6-0-1 to appoint veteran Public Works Director Edward “Bo” Tucker as the interim town manager. Mr. Wood abstained from that vote.

After firing the manager, who started the job in October 2015, the council members and mayor very quickly left Town Hall just after 10:30 p.m. They all refused to comment.

Mayor Carter Nevill “will release a letter in the morning,” Councilman Sean Polster (At-large) said walking out of the building.

Mr. Godfrey also refused to comment, retreating to his upstairs office with wife Leslie after the vote.

Other than town officials and Mrs. Godfrey, only three reporters from FauquierNow attended the meeting, which started at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Mr. Godfrey’s termination took effect immediately, according to the council’s motion.

Neither the town council nor the county board of supervisors had ever fired its chief executive before Tuesday night.

Councilmen Sean Polster (At-large), Alec Burnett (Ward 2), Brett Hamby (Ward 3), Bob Kravetz (Ward 4) and Kevin Carter (Ward 5) voted to terminate the town manager’s contract.

Council members and the mayor recently had questioned Mr. Godfrey’s handling of a new police chief’s recruitment, an incident involving off-duty town cops in a local bar, the proposed Broadview Avenue project and even the permitting of a food truck that sells ice cream. 

The council on Oct. 9 convened in closed session — from 10:27 p.m. to midnight — to discuss “the performance of the town manager.” Council members took no action and said nothing after emerging into an open meeting that night.

Mr. Godfrey’s contract called for a “360-degree” analysis of his performance by a consulting firm no later than August 2018.

But, August came and went without the required evaluation.

Mr. Godfrey failed to include funding for the review in the fiscal 2019 budget, which the town council reviewed for months before adoption in June. 

The town issued a request for town manager evaluation bids on Friday, Oct. 12.

In January, after months of private conversations, a divided town council extended Mr. Godfrey’s contract a year and raised his salary by $5,000. He earned $155,000 under the amended contract that would have run through June 30, 2019.

Mr. Godfrey started as Warrenton’s manager in October 2015 at a salary of $150,000. 

He came to Warrenton after six years as an assistant city manager in Portsmouth. Mr. Godfrey previously worked as the town manager in Culpeper for six years and the city manager in Winchester for a year.

Staff journalists Cassandra Brown and Don Del Rosso contributed to this report.

Contact Lou Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-270-1845.

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FalconDad · October 31, 2018 at 12:23 am
It’s also looking more like the Town Police is getting closer to being disbanded. It may be the priority task of a new Town Manager in consultation and coordination with the Fauquier Sheriff’s office that may be offering a few young Town Police Officers deputy positions.
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