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13News Now Investigates: Ex-employees cash big severance checks in Portsmouth

The City of Portsmouth paid almost half-a-million dollars in combined severance to five former employees in recent years.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The turnover in Portsmouth politics has some people out of the job but still getting paid.

The City of Portsmouth paid almost half-a-million dollars in severance to some high-profile ex-employees in recent years.

Since 2019, five former employees raked in a combined $414,984.64 in severance pay, 13News Now confirmed through an open records request.

City Manager Tonya Chapman abruptly fired Police Chief Renado Prince this July. Two weeks later, Prince got a one-time severance payout of $77,500.02.

In May, city council voted 4-3 to fire City Manager Angel Jones. She left with a $103,000.04 severance package paid out over six months, with her final check coming on Thanksgiving this year.

In 2020, the city council also voted 4-3 to fire then-City Attorney Solomon Ashby. He left with $99,585.98 in severance pay.

Former City Manager Lydia Pettis-Patton cashed in the largest severance check of $112,590.92. She resigned the same night that Ashby was fired.

In 2019, Tonya Chapman collected $22,307.68 severance when she was forced to resign as police chief.

But that figure is chump change compared to what Chapman will receive if she’s fired from her new role as city manager.

RELATED: 'Unprecedented' severance pay on the table for new Portsmouth city manager

Her current contract guarantees a severance payout of $400,000 if she’s fired in this first year, and $200,000 if she’s fired in year two.

Angela Greene was also fired as Portsmouth police chief in 2020, but she did not receive any severance pay.

City officials issued the following statement to 13News Now:

"Turnover is a matter that city governments must continually work on improving.  According to a 2021 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual turnover rate is 57percent across all industries, which accounts for both voluntary and involuntary turnover.  The cost of turnover is extremely high: it’s estimated that losing an employee can cost a company 1.5-2 times the employee’s salary.  For the severances for the former Chiefs of Police, Mr. Renado Prince received a severance payment agreement on September 4, 2021, and Ms. Tonya Chapman’s severance was provided at the time of separation.  Terms of severances for the positions of City Manager and City Attorney were included in employment agreements, with supplementary terms at the discretion of City Council."

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