York City Council schedules hearing on Helfrich's appointees

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
York City Council members, from left, President Henry Nixon, Judy Ritter-Dixon and Edquina Washington participate in a York City Council town hall meeting at Logos Academy in York City, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The York City Council has a date for a town hall meeting to discuss the city's embattled Department of Economic and Community Development.

The rare meeting following Blanda Nace's controversial appointment last month to the post of chief opportunity development officer will take place at 6 p.m. Monday, June 24, in the City Council Chambers, 101 S. George St. 

"It's a perfect opportunity for the administration to explain to anyone and everybody what exactly they're doing," City Council Vice President Sandie Walker said. "It's a mayor-dominant operation in a third-class city. The mayor can do a lot of things, but it has to be properly communicated."

More:York City Council wants answers about Nace's appointment

More:York City residents blast Nace's post in Helfrich administration

On Wednesday, council members described the event as a way "to receive comments from residents relating to the long-term plans and visions" for the department, a stark difference from last week's committee meeting.

This past week, Council President Henry Nixon described the event as a response to backlash following Nace's appointment, adding the hearing could result in an investigation.

Council members Edquina Washington and Judy Ritter-Dixon said the public deserves to have their voices heard, but they declined to comment when asked what their personal issues with Nace's appointment were.

Blanda Nace, former director of strategic development at the York County Economic Alliance, announced his candidacy for the York County Board of Commissioners on Sunday, Feb. 10.

Last week, council members Nixon and Michael Buckingham said the appointment was an end-run on council.

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich, who will be presenting a report detailing the inner workings of the department and its future plans, dismissed the council's efforts and defended Nace's appointment.

For one, it's unheard of that a city council would hold a hearing on an employee, especially one that isn't a department head, he said.

Additionally, with only one employee working under Nace, it would be unreasonable to make him a director, Helfrich continued, adding Nace has brought in tens of thousands of dollars for the city while cutting costs in other areas.

"A small handful of individuals decided to disseminate false information and use it to try and get people riled up," Helfrich has said. 

But public scrutiny instantly followed Nace's appointment for more reasons than just circumventing the council.

Nace was a former employee of the York County Economic Alliance. Last year, the city mulled handing its economic development arm over to the outside agency, raising the ire of residents of color. 

Helfrich has said the city is not searching for a director for the department because of budgetary reasons, adding Nace's salary is "definitely lower" than that of a would-be director. 

But based on the city's earlier listing for a director, the salary would range from $69,000 to $85,000, which Nace's reported $88,544 salary exceeds. 

A director's salary ranges from $69,000 to $104,000, based on experience, Helfrich has said, and top talent tends to make more than what's advertised. For managers, the salary ranges from $60,000-$88,500.

Philip Given, Helfrich's chief of staff, is now the acting director of the department.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.