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Portsmouth City Council appoints new city manager during tense meeting

This comes after the four council members voted to abruptly fire former City Manager Angel Jones, with no warning to the public.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — A second attempt to appoint former Portsmouth Police Chief Tonya Chapman as city manager passed at a city council meeting Tuesday night.

Councilman Mark Whitaker made the motion to appoint Chapman, which was approved in a 4-3 vote. 

This comes after the four council members voted to abruptly fire former City Manager Angel Jones, with no warning to the public. 

RELATED: Portsmouth mayor calls firing of City Manager Angel Jones 'unwarranted'

During a special called meeting to name a new city manager just a week later, a motion to appoint Chapman failed 3-4. Tuesday night, Councilman Christopher Woodard flipped his vote -- a decision that audibly shocked the crowd.

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

"A circus act," "a coup," were just a few words used by council members to describe the vote.

"What's the sense of urgency? Anybody who wants to do this this quickly, I’m shady about it. I don’t trust that if you’re trying to do that that quickly," said Councilwoman Lisa Lucas-Burke.

Mayor Shannon Glover said he does not approve of the behavior happening between council members.

"My fundamental problem is, one, we have a candidate who was not discussed by the whole council, who was fired, released by the City of Portsmouth," Mayor Glover said.

RELATED: Portsmouth Police Chief resigns, interim named

Chapman left the police department amongst controversy in 2019 and claimed she was forced to resign.

Now, she’s scheduled to step into the new role on June 22.

Councilman Bill Moody raised concerns that Chapman has no experience in a leadership role in municipal government. He and Glover said Interim City Manager Mimi Terry is doing a great job, so there's no reason to rush this decision.

Whitaker disagrees and said he thinks she's the right choice.

"I think she brings a wealth of experience and also an out of box, not the normal cookie-cutter city manager," he said. "I'm really excited about her return to Portsmouth."

Although Whitaker said this decision was not made on a whim, Glover said the group who voted Jones out and Chapman in, undermined his authority by not involving him in the conversations.

Following the vote, Glover directed Whitaker to be thrown out of the meeting; however, the city council voted to override his order letting Whitaker to stay.

Glover also threatened to throw Councilman De'Andre Barnes out for making what he called "false statements."

The mayor then made a motion to adjourn the meeting early. Because of that motion, no one in the packed room was able to share their thoughts on the new city manager.

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

Furthermore, a group of Portsmouth citizens has called for a recall of Barnes and Whitaker from the city council. The group members call the sudden firing of Jones "unethical." 

Barnes told 13News Now, "I’m excited to see our citizens engaged and exercising their rights. My concern is that we have more pressing issues in the city right now."

After Tuesday's chaotic council meeting, Whitaker addressed the recall efforts.

"Citizens have a right. They're using their constitutional rights and local rights. I just want to make sure that, again, if you're going to recall, do it on the truth. Don't do it on a bunch of demagoguery, lies and emotion. Also, I am concerned again, that in the City of Portsmouth, it's only African Americans that are getting recalled," he said.

During our interview, Whitaker referred to "issues" he wanted to bring to light, regarding the former city manager.

"There was over a four-month period of concern," he said.

He said he plans to read a statement during the next city council meeting, but wouldn't elaborate citing legal concerns.

You can view the full meeting here.

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