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Portsmouth City Council rejects ex-police chief for vacated city manager position

High intensity, yet again, marked a Portsmouth City Council meeting Tuesday. But this time, much of the roar came from people in the crowd.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — It's been one week since an abrupt 4-3 vote terminating City Manager Angel Jones. 

Council members met to talk about appointing a new person to the role on Tuesday night. However, another 4-3 vote declined to move that forward. 

With last week's meeting fresh in the community's minds, a crowd packed city council chambers in Portsmouth.

"I was outraged, appalled. I don't think I've ever been so mad in my life at what the city, certain members of council, have done," said citizen Dianne Ringer, who showed up to chambers wearing a t-shirt saying, "Portsmouth: Governed by 7 NOT ruled by 4."

Though public speakers were not allowed during the meeting, many expressed frustration over the sudden firing of Jones as city manager through cheering or booing from the audience. 

Last week, Councilman Mark Whitaker introduced a motion terminating Jones' contract. Vice Mayor Barnes, Councilmen Christopher Woodard and Paul Battle voted in favor. 

"I'm trying to make this government work for all of us," said Battle. "And if you decide to vote me out, then do it." He was met with cheers following that statement.

Ringer recognized ongoing issues of crime within the city. 

"I don't think you can lay all the blame on those at Mrs. Jones' doorstep. We are short on police officers. We have 'x' number of vacancies. Crime is rampant. You cannot lay all that on Mrs. Jones. Council knows that and four chose to make her a scapegoat for their own agenda," she said. 

On Tuesday, Whitaker revealed his desire to appoint Former Police Chief Tonya Chapman as the new city manager. She left amongst controversy in 2019 and claimed she was forced to resign. 

RELATED: Former Portsmouth Police chief claims she was forced to resign

Subsequently, during Tuesday's meeting, two motions to delay a vote on the city manager position (one until June 14 and one until January 2023) failed. 

Ultimately, Mayor Shannon Glover, Councilmembers Lisa Lucas-Burke, Bill Moody and Woodard rejected Whitaker's pick. 

"It's a process. There are other council members. We have to talk and make this stuff happen," said Woodard. 

"And they threw another woman who was a Delta. I guess they thought they had my vote. But I love Tonya Chapman. I don't want to see her in the mix of this. Because as soon as she doesn't do what they say, then that's out again," said Lucas-Burke.

Whitaker evaded questions, following the meeting. 

Several on council — including Mayor Shannon Glover — said they felt blindsided again. 

"The correct process would be for us to come together as a council and then set the criteria because our charter clearly states that the council is responsible for appointing a city manager who meets the professional qualifications," said Glover. 

When asked if council would open up the application process for city manager, Glover said this: "I can't say for certain. I have to get with my colleagues. That determination will be made once we convene." 

Meanwhile, Deputy City Manager Mimi Terry is serving as the interim city manager.

Moreover, Councilman Moody is reversing course on his decision to run for office again. Turns out, he will seek another term in office. He told us he's "fired up," especially following last week's vote terminating Jones. 

Moody said he wants to help stabilize the municipal government. 

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