Listen to highlights from Patrick Baker’s press conference. If you cannot see the player below, download the free Flash Player.

On Dec. 12, Mayor Bill Bell announced that Durham had begun a nationwide search to replace Patrick Baker as city manager. After finding a replacement, which he pledged to do by the end of June 2008, Bell will then move Baker to the position of city attorney, vacated by Henry Blinder, who is retiring.

Originally chosen as an interim city manager in 2004, Baker has been at the center of several costly blundersincluding failing to disclose the extent of lead contamination in city water, the immolation of an unlicensed yard waste dump and the Duke lacrosse investigation. Baker did not refer to any of these incidents in his speech, instead crediting a “work-life” imbalance for his decision to step down.

Baker referred to interviews from as early as June 2007 as “cries for help” that he wanted to leave. He said that “rumors swirled” about the job transfer after Blinder announced his retirement, and he addressed those concerns in a closed executive session on Dec. 6. On Dec. 12, he announced his resignation.

“I know some people are going to talk about regrets, and they want to talk about various things. I just encourage the folks in the mediaand I’m not going to take any questions after thisthat if you want to know what Patrick Baker was as a city manager, ask the people who worked for me. They’re the best ones who can tell you what I brought to this administration, and where we are in 2007, versus where we were in August 2004, when I was asked to take over. So I don’t have any regrets. That’s the answer to that question.”

He added that he did regret telling the News & Observer that the city attorney’s position was a “cush” jobwhich he referred to on Wednesday as a “misstatement, clearly” and, later, as a misquote.

Bell explained his decision to move Baker to the city attorney’s office, where Baker worked previously, by saying that Baker would “not be an unknown.”

“I told Patrick, he’s not going far. Instead of sitting on my right, he’s sitting on my left at council meetings, so we still have strings on him,” Bell said.