‘A violation of the criteria’: Portsmouth councilman refuses to interview Danny Meeks for city manager position

Portsmouth

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side has confirmed there are five finalists for the Portsmouth City Manager position. Among them, former councilman Danny Meeks.

Vice Mayor De’Andre Barnes said the candidates will be interviewed by City Council in a closed session this week.

A current Portsmouth City Council member has refused to participate in the interview process for Meeks though.

Councilman Mark Whitaker wrote in an email to other City Council members Friday that he would not interview Meeks because he felt doing so is a “violation of the criteria established and publicized by the Portsmouth City Council.”

Whitaker cited Meeks’ lack of qualifications for the position as a concern. Meeks is a local business owner, but does not meet the educational requirements listed for the job. He said he had hoped City Council would “abandon any notion of proceeding in a manner that abridges due process, fairness, and equity.”

“Based on your knowledge both actual and constructive, Mr. Meeks does not possess nor meet the minimum requirements publicized to all potential applicants,” Whitaker wrote to council members.

Whitaker confirmed to 10 On Your Side that Meeks will have an interview with council Feb. 26.

While both Whitaker and Councilwoman Lisa Lucas-Burke confirmed Meeks is among the candidates, neither would comment on the other finalists.

The process of hiring a new city manager has come with some confusing hurdles revolving around Meeks.

First, Portsmouth City Council met Jan. 12 and voted 4-3 to appoint Meeks to the city manager position — which he had never submitted an application.

In that same meeting, City Council went into closed session and returned with a new plan. They backpedaled, voting unanimously to revote and vote against appointing Meeks.

Then, they extended the application window until Jan. 20, allowing Meeks to apply if he wanted to.

A week and a half later, protesters gathered at Portsmouth City Hall. There were people both in support of and against Meeks’ potential appointment as city manager.

On the day of the protest, Meeks told 10 On Your Side he had officially applied and already been interviewed for the position. However, Councilwoman Lisa Lucas-Burke said no interviews had been conducted yet, and council was set to start interviewing candidates that following Monday.

“As we proceeded through this process, it was my hope that the majority of Council would abandon
any notion of proceeding in a manner that abridges due process, fairness, and equity. However, it
is disappointing to see that such consciousness is not a consensus in this matter. Consequently, I
will not participate in something which requires me to lower my standards and ignore my values,” Whitaker wrote.

Whitaker said he thought interviewing Meeks would require him to ignore “centuries of past discriminatory practices.”

“Particularly, our history is replete with testimonies of people being denied opportunities for advancement because someone with less qualifications or in some instances no qualifications was selected. I will not close my eyes to this past injustice nor cooperate with this present inequity,” he wrote.

Whitaker added that he hoped other council members would follow his lead.

“Therefore, it is with great regret, but with a content spirit, that I refuse to participate in the
interviewing of Mr. Danny Meeks as a Candidate for Portsmouth City Manager. I hope my fellow
Colleagues will rise to the same consciousness,” he wrote.

Stay with WAVY.com for updates on this story.

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