York City Council wants answers about Nace's appointment

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
York City Council members, from left, H. Michael Buckingham, Vice President Sandie Walker, President Henry Nixon, Judy Ritter-Dixon and Edquina Washington take the stage during 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 could launch an investigation into the appointment of chief opportunity development officer Blanda Nace following a town hall meeting late next month.

Mayor Michael Helfrich appointed Nace to the position earlier this month, circumventing a council confirmation vote because it isn't a director position. The move garnered public scrutiny — including from council members themselves — for avoiding council input. 

"I think anything is possible, from something as simple as hearing from the public up through perhaps even an investigation," said City Council President Henry Nixon.

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

More:York City contracts Nace to plug economic development hole

Nixon, reading a statement Wednesday night, said the town hall meeting is a direct result of grievances from the public and is meant to answer questions both the council members and the public have about Nace's sudden appointment.

Earlier this month, Nace abruptly ended his bid for a seat on the York County Board of Commissioners and, instead, accepted the post in Helfrich's administration. 

A time, date and place for the public meeting haven't yet been set, but Nixon confirmed it would take place in late June. Helfrich will be in attendance to answer questions, he said.

"I have a number of questions, because it's fairly clear to me he made an end-run on council, and I don't think that's appropriate," Nixon said.

City Councilman Michael Buckingham said he doesn't know what to expect from the town hall besides discourse, but he also said he felt the appointment was a run around council and didn't know Nace's actual responsibilities.

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.

Council members Edquina Washington, Sandie Walker and Judy Ritter-Dickson didn't respond Thursday to phone and email inquiries for comment.

As some council members griped over the appointment, Helfrich asserted the community and council reactions to Nace, as well as the town hall and potential investigation, are merely political ploys.

"It seems that other, more political reasons are at work here," the mayor said. "I don't think there's anything logical behind it. I think a small handful of individuals decide to disseminate false information and use it to try and get people riled up."

Helfrich added that as a new hire, Nace has received more positive feedback from citizens than any individual since Police Chief Troy Bankert. And since Nace only oversees one employee, it's unfair to compare his position to that of a director's, Helfrich said.

Tasked with handling opportunity zones, staffing the Redevelopment Authority and other economic initiatives, Nace has saved taxpayers more than $200,000 through avoiding unnecessary contracts and has brought in $60,000 from a fee for overseeing a redevelopment grant, Helfrich continued.

But Nace's new job also might have resurrected a controversy from last year, when the city considered outsourcing economic development to the York County Economic Alliance, Nace's employer at the time. 

During several City Council meetings, residents of color said outsourcing economic development to the majority-white YCEA would gentrify the city. The criticism ultimately killed the deal. 

Finances also have come into play with Nace's appointment.

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, such as Nace, the salary ranges from $60,000 to $88,500, Helfrich said.

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