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Blacks Say Murray’s Ouster Hints Of Racism

October 9, 1986

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ The ouster of City Manager Sylvester Murray after only 13 months as San Diego’s first black top executive hints of racism, an official of the Urban League says.

Murray announced his resignation Wednesday, a day after the City Council voted 7-1 to ask him to step down. A clash in management style was the reason given for Murray’s requested resignation.

His only vote of confidence came from William Jones, the lone black on council.

″What’s the deal here?″ asked Vernon Sukumu, a black community activist. ″Are (the mayor and council) too small to work with someone who is too strong? If he is incompetent, say he is incompetent. Couldn’t they get along?″

Over the months since his selection in September 1985, Murray ran afoul of council members several times by taking action affecting their districts without consulting them first.

When he was city manager in Cincinnati, Murray worked with more autonomy because council members and the mayor were part-time servants elected at- large.

Although San Diego has a city manager form of government, City Council members and the mayor have gained more power in the last 15 years. Council members are elected from districts and have a turf-oriented approach to their offices.

″There clearly appears to be racial aspects of the decision,″ said Ambrose Brodus, acting executive director of the San Diego Urban League. Brodus said he asked the mayor and council to reverse their action and asked Murray to reconsider his resignation.

The Rev. Willie Manley, pastor of the Greater Life Baptist Church and member of the Southeast Ministerial Association, said the 20-member association wants to learn the reasons for the ouster.

If members conclude Murray was fired for the wrong reasons, they would consider some form of protest at City Hall, Manley said.

Murray, 45, said he was unaware until reading a newspaper report Wednesday that the council had voted ″no confidence″ in him Tuesday night. Appearing at a news conference with Mayor Maureen O’Connor, Murray said he was sorry to be leaving but felt the decision was best for the city.

O’Connor said the resignation was to be kept secret to allow Murray to look for another job while still employed. Because of the news report, it was decided that Murray would take an official leave of absence. The date of his resignation from the $102,000 position hasn’t been announced.

Another nationwide search for a manager is expected to be conducted.

Assistant City Manager John Lockwood will become acting city manager for the third time in two years. Lockwood filled in when former City Manager Ray Blair was recovering from illness and took over in the interim between Blair’s resignation and Murray’s hiring.

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