PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Newly appointed Portsmouth City Manager Tonya Chapman released a statement Wednesday regarding her decision to fire former Police Chief Renado Prince.
"As the city manager of Portsmouth, like any other leadership position, you must be able to make difficult and unpopular decisions," Chapman wrote. "Whenever I am considering terminating an employee, I do not take this decision lightly."
On Tuesday, Chapman fired Prince, less than a week into her new role.
In an exclusive interview with 13News Now, Prince said his termination came after a text message in which he was critical of Chapman.
In 2018, Chapman hired Prince as assistant chief when she served as the city's police chief.
After a recent meeting with Chapman, Prince said he complained to an employee via text message, expressing frustrations about his conversation with the city manager.
However, Prince did not realize Chapman was included in the text message thread, he told 13News Now Wednesday.
"It was a bad response on my part or a bad reaction, but nothing that I believe I should have been terminated for,” Prince said.
According to Prince, his concerns stemmed from a portion of the meeting where Chapman said she wanted to be notified about certain incidents in the city, which he said brought back old frustrations from when he worked under a previous police chief. Prince said he had also been dealing with stress on the job.
Prince said he had never "complained down" before, and he called his actions "immature" and "regretful."
Prince claims he apologized to Chapman, but after a meeting Tuesday, Chapman told him she had spoken with the city attorney and they agreed Prince's actions were a "breach of trust that was irreconcilable."
By Tuesday afternoon, Prince claimed Chapman gave him the option to resign or be fired.
Prince opted for termination after he learned he would forfeit his severance if he resigned. The City of Portsmouth will pay him six months of his salary, according to Prince.
Chapman's tenure as city manager began on June 30. She took over the role of city manager after the city council fired former City Manager Angel Jones in a 4-3 vote.
In 2019, Chapman said city leaders forced her to resign as police chief and alleged she witnessed systemic racism in the department.
The decisions to fire Jones and appoint Chapman have sparked weeks of drama and tension, including a handful of allegations among city leaders, ongoing recall efforts and Mayor Shannon Glover's attempt to file criminal charges on fellow council members.
Prince was sworn into office in September 2021.
“The truth of the matter is, I expected to be terminated," said Prince. “Yeah, I expected it. I didn’t expect it to come this soon.”
Prince said he’d heard rumors for about three months that he, Jones, and another city employee who he would not name, would be fired. So far, Jones and Prince are no longer employed by the City of Portsmouth.
“I’m proud of what I did. I’m proud of what she did. I’m glad to have my name being associated with her, as working with her, and being fired along with her,” said Prince.
Prince called Jones "innovative" and "a woman of her word." He did not speak ill of Chapman, only to wish her well.
“We know that when cities get new management, there is [often] a number of people who get terminated with or without cause. I’ll leave it up to the public to decide where I fall in those categories,” he said.
Prince still wants to work and is seeking employment. Prince feels "good" about the work he and his staff accomplished, though down nearly 100 officers, he said. He called working with the department "a blessing."
“It’s not about me. It’s about the citizens that we serve," Prince said when asked what he wanted to say to his former officers and staff. “I enjoyed working with every one of you. I learned. It was a blessing for me, and I have nothing but positive things to say about the Portsmouth Police Department. “
Prince, who served as police chief for 10 months, does not believe he had enough time to do the job the way he wanted.
“I was just starting to settle in, but I will say the City of Portsmouth embraced me. They were stepping up, and they were doing what the police department asked, which was to participate, inform us and give us a chance,” Prince said.
But Prince is the city's third police chief in three years. He said the department needs stability.
“That’s too much change. They cannot progress forward," he said. "I was just starting to make that change, and there was starting to be stability. I don’t care if you bring in the best chief in the world. That chief will have change. They can’t take any more change.”
Overall, Prince said he is "relieved," though he made clear his sentiments are not a slight on the City of Portsmouth. Prince said the stress and worry that came with the role often kept him up at night.
On Thursday, July 14, Chapman, who has not done any interviews since her hiring, plans to speak to the media about future initiatives for the city.
Here is Chapman's full statement:
"As the City Manager of Portsmouth, like any other leadership position, you must be able to make difficult and unpopular decisions. Whether I am considering terminating an employee, I do not take this lightly. I hired Mr. Prince when I was the Chief of Portsmouth Police Department.
I realize that you may have many questions, but this is a City of Portsmouth personnel matter, and I cannot comment about the reason or any details due to privacy rights.
Public safety is going to be a top priority. Interim Chief Stephen Jenkins, upon assuming the role, will be reviewing and recommending additions or changes to our Crime Prevention & Violence Reduction plan. I look forward to getting input of the citizens as we continue to discuss crime and violence prevention."