Roanoke City Manager Bob Cowell resigns

ROANOKE, Va. – Roanoke City Manager Bob Cowell has announced his resignation.

His last day will be June 7, and Mayor Sherman Lea will take over the next day.

“We appreciate Mr. Cowell’s service to the City, and its employees, and look forward to what the future holds for both Bob and the City of Roanoke,” the city said.

According to city officials, the Roanoke City Council has hired a national search firm to find an acting city manager who will be named soon.

The same firm will work with the City Council to develop a process for hiring a new city manager.

This comes on the heels of accusations of a toxic work environment within the city government office, specifically the behavior of one of Cowell’s Assistant City Managers, Brent Robertson.

10 News filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the city and was given three separate emails sent to both Mayor Sherman Lea and the city council.

They detail the allegations from both a former and current employee.

In one of those emails sent on April 10, the Deputy Director of Finance calls the current administration toxic and damaging.

She says employees were verbally abused, threatened and excluded from meetings and discussions important to their jobs and claims Cowell failed to handle the situation.

She says one employee requested a panic button to be installed at her desk because of Robertson’s behavior.

She called for Cowell and Robertson’s immediate removal.

In a separate email, a former city employee claims during a March 6 meeting with their team, Robertson “burst into our suite... very angry and erratic in his behavior... he began verbally attacking me and physically threatening me.”

In the employee’s resignation email, they called the city’s work environment “restrictive, unwarranted, unsafe, and hostile.”

Stay with 10 News as this breaking news story continues to develop.

About the Authors

Lauren Helkowski joined WSLS 10’s digital team in August 2022, but has held a passion for storytelling long before.

Connor Dietrich joined the 10 News team in June 2022. Originally from Castle Rock, Colorado, he's ready to step away from the Rockies and step into the Blue Ridge scenery.

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