Marc Woolley, who will be Charlottesville’s interim city manager for a $205,000 yearly salary, spent part of a special meeting of City Council on Friday defending his work history and explaining lawsuits he has been named in.
Woolley, 52, most recently served as Business Administrator in the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania since October 2017, where he oversaw the departments of Finance and Procurement, Information Technology, Human Resources, Communications, Risk Management and Tax Collection. Woolley also served previously as Deputy General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer and Corporate Secretary for the Hershey Trust Company in Hershey, Pa., and was Of Counsel to Ballard Spahr LLP in Philadelphia, one of the city’s largest law firms.
In April 2017, Woolley was appointed chief operating officer for Salt Lake City, Utah’s Redevelopment Agency, but Mayor Jackie Biskupski withdrew the appointment three days later after the Salt Lake Tribune reported on Woolley’s departure from two jobs and being named in multiple lawsuits.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Woolley worked in various roles from June 1999 to December 2003 at the Philadelphia Housing Authority, including general counsel, and that he resigned from the agency amid accusations lobbed by former employees. According to the Tribune, one of the former employers said Woolley ordered staff to skirt federal regulations by amending contracts in ways that benefited private law firms. Woolley told the Salt Lake Tribune that the allegations were unfounded and that he was cleared of wrongdoing.
On Friday, Woolley said his resignation from the agency had nothing to do with these allegations and that he had chosen to leave to accept the position of Assistant to the Chairman and Director of Claims Administration for the Delaware River Port Authority in Camden, New Jersey.
“With regard to the law firms and their bills, you can ask every managing partner of a law firm that did work for the Philadelphia Housing Authority. I was the bane of their existence. I marked up all their bills,” Woolley said.
“The stories that you’re getting, they’re anecdotes from lawsuits and not investigative reporting and in lawsuits as you know, you can draft a complaint, you can say almost anything you want,” he said.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Woolley had been placed on administrative leave in 2016 from his position as chief compliance officer of the Hershey Trust Co., the largest shareholder in the chocolate manufacturing company, after writing a memo that described the trust board’s infighting. The memo was circulated to board members and later leaked along with other documents to Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, leading to a new state investigation of the trust. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Woolley was fired from his position and that there was no indication of wrongdoing by Woolley. On Friday, however, Woolley said he had not been fired but chose to resign.
“It was clear that the board and I did not see eye to eye and it was untenable. So I resigned,” Woolley said.
“I stand by my work. I stand by all that I’ve done. And I’m ready to defend it. And I will defend it and have defended it in the past. But as far as anecdotes … that have not seen the light of day in a courtroom where I’ve been disposed of, there’s nothing to say about them,” he said.
Councilor Lloyd Snook also gave Woolley the opportunity to address multiple lawsuits that had come against him while he was employed at the Philadelphia Housing Authority.
“I was one of several defendants named including the organization itself … there were four cases, three of which involved lawyers that were disgruntled. One was taking corporate documents, another was living outside the city. And then another one’s representing both the housing authority and a wayward police officer,” Woolley said.
“In most cases it’s very difficult, near impossible for one attorney to represent both sides. And so I just ran into some issues there, but because of it, I was named in the suit. And it was disposed of … and the attorney in question was reprimanded by a federal judge from the bench,” he said.
Woolley was also an appointed member of the Chester Upland School District’s Empowerment Board in Delaware County, Pa. and served as its chairman. He holds a B.A. in psychology from Georgetown University and a J.D. from Boston College Law School.
City Council formally voted to appoint Woolley Friday afternoon during the special meeting after members of the press and community members had a chance to answer questions.
Woolley will be responsible for putting together the budget for fiscal year 2023 and working on the completion of the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Woolley said he aims to provide some stability.
“There are certain acute issues that need to be taken care of, namely the budget and the Comprehensive Plan. From then it’s really laying the foundation for the next city manager to be able to come in and establish priorities with City Council that are probably a more long range in nature,” Woolley said.
“My role is to sit down with council and stakeholders and plot a course forward for the short term and laying some bricks down for the future. But I’m not here to upset the applecart unless it’s called for,” he said.
Woolley also said he hopes to tackle the city’s affordable housing crisis and use his experience working with the Philadelphia Housing Authority.
According to Woolley’s contract, City Council sent his job offer Oct. 30, following a special closed meeting on Oct. 22 where councilors interviewed and discussed candidates for the position.
Mayor Nikuyah Walker said on Friday that Woolley had applied and was a finalist for a deputy city manager position.
“Mr. Woolley was a finalist for the Deputy City Manager position that would be in charge of the finance, budget, HR, departments and of course when we landed where we landed last month, Council started exploring options and because the councilors had been meeting with Mr. Woolley, he became a topic of discussion around the possibility of filling in in the interim,” Walker said.
City Council will launch a public search process for hiring the permanent city manager in April 2022. In the interim, Woolley’s senior leadership team will include Deputy City Managers Ashley Marshall and Sam Sanders.
Woolley said he plans to apply for the permanent city manager position. If he isn’t chosen for the position, his contract includes four months of severance pay and benefits after the new city manager assumes their position.