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Amid City Hall Chaos, Black Rescinds Job Offer to Council Analyst

Acting Chief Administrative Officer Harry Black offered a job to an applicant for the position of fiscal analyst for City Council Sept. 21, only to rescind the offer later that afternoon, according to a letter written by a lawyer for City Council and obtained by Style.

After receiving the letter from Black, the applicant, Ralph Harris, immediately accepted the offer and gave notice at his current job. Sources close to council say that his employer is working with him while the situation is sorted out.

The episode happened the day the administration of L. Douglas Wilder attempted to forcibly remove the schools administration from City Hall and publicly announced that visits to pornographic Web sites had been found on the computer of City Council President Bill Pantele. Also that day, Black informed council liaisons that they'd have to schedule interviews to advance the two-year process of reapplying for their jobs. (His office abruptly canceled those appointments 10 days later.)

After learning of the rescinded job offer, City Council special counsel Brian Buniva wrote a letter to Mayor L. Douglas Wilder's lawyer, Richard Cullen. In it, he quotes from Black's letter terminating the fiscal analyst offer as doing so "pursuant to my authority as Deputy Chief Administrative Officer."

Black's assertion that he can hire and fire for City Council staff positions lies at the heart of a still undecided lawsuit between council and the mayor. Wilder says his office can; council says he can't.

The position, which the city posted as paying between $51,553 and $84,678 annually, has been open since former Council Fiscal Analyst Lenora Reid resigned June 15. The council fiscal analyst analyzes the budget and proposes legislation related to taxes and other money matters.

Mayor L. Douglas Wilder says he's unaware of Black's hiring and unhiring of Harris. "I don't know anything about it," Wilder says. S

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