MONROE, N.C. -- A culture of fear, nepotism, meddling and secret recordings is what a just-released report says about how Monroe City Council members, senior staff and the city manager operate.
The report comes after a former city manager, Wayne Herron, resigned and received a $150,000 severance package, as well as the city's inability to retain a city manager for any decent length of time.
Herron's resignation came after investigators say his wife made a threatening phone call to Monroe Police Chief Debra Duncan.
The report cites several problems needing fixing after dozens of people were interviewed, including all Council members except Billy Jordan, who didn't respond to multiple requests.
One part recommends the city should hire someone to sweep the building for bugs and other surveillance devices.
The report says Council Member Dottie Nash recorded Herron and believes Duncan did as well.
It says Nash creates a fear of retaliation and distrust by staff, and Council Member Lynn Keziah's demanding style also creates fear.
Nash says she doesn't know where being mean comes from and says the report is biased.
Keziah did not return our email.
Another issue in the report is nepotism.
The report cites Duncan's daughter being hired, two of Nash's son's former girlfriends hired, one of Keziah's relatives and apparent preference for his friends.
The report says in some cases, staff felt they had little choice in hiring decisions and felt pressured.
The report recommends several changes, including an anti-nepotism policy, no secret recordings and no retaliation against people interviewed.
In response, Monroe Mayor Bobby Kilgore says some city employees are related, but they do not supervise each other.
"As far as anyone saying you have to hire this one, you have to hire that one, I don't know that and if that's the case, you can blame me because I have not been told that," Kilgore said.
Mayor Kilgore also says secret recordings have been blown out of proportion.
"There are no bugs in city hall," he said.
The report says whoever is hired to be the next city manager needs to be strong enough to put Council members in their place and say no.
Kilgore says the Council might implement some of the recommendations but will have to take a closer look.
The study, by Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein, cost taxpayers $50,000.