‘Circumventing the process’: Portsmouth councilman explains why he changed his mind on new city manager vote

Portsmouth

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — On Tuesday night, Portsmouth City Council briefly decided who it wanted to hire as the new city manager. However, before the night was over, one city councilman changed his mind — and, with a revote, the appointment was void.

The city paid more than $22,500 to a search firm to find its next city manager. So far, 96 have applied for the job. However, former council member Danny Meeks did not — but for a short period of time Tuesday, that didn’t matter. Without submitting an application or having the educational qualifications, he was selected to become the next city manager.

Portsmouth Councilwoman Lisa Lucas-Burke called what happened Tuesday “a circus.” Council first voted 4-3 to make Meeks the new city manager, then returned with a unanimous vote against that same appointment, essentially taking it back.

“What happened is bizarre, horrible, and unprofessional,” Lucas-Burke said. 

One of the four “yes” votes for Meeks was Councilman Bill Moody.

“I also think he has a keen business knowledge and he brings that to the table for Portsmouth,” he said. Meeks has owned several businesses including Empire Services, Inc. His wife owns Finks Inc. Towing, Body Repairs and Sales in Portsmouth.

Voting with Moody for Meeks, was newly elected Vice Mayor De’Andre Barnes, Paul Battle, and newly-appointed Councilman Chris Woodard who made the motion to appoint Meeks.

Voting with Lucas-Burke against the appointment was Mayor Shannon Glover and Councilman Dr. Mark M. Whitaker. 

After the 4-3 vote was cast, City Council went into closed session — and came out with a different plan.

Those supporting Meeks hadn’t thought ahead to also assign a salary and a start date.

When council went into closed session with those questions, Moody said he started having second thoughts.

“The process we have agreed on, we seemed to be circumventing that. I wanted to go back to the process. I wanted to go back to a revote and I did.” 

Because of that, Moody wanted to un-appoint Meeks as city manager. All seven council members then voted “no” on Meeks.

After that, the council also extended the deadline for city manager applicants to Jan. 20. The extension allows Meeks to apply, if he wants to.  

Looking back, Moody wishes that was the only vote taken, to extend the application deadline.  

“That was probably what we should have done, but I wanted to stay true to my word that I would vote for Danny [Meeks],” he said. 

As for Lucas-Burke, she says she’ll fight as hard as she can to keep Meeks from becoming Portsmouth’s city manager.

“I’m in there, a pit bull with pearls. However, they want to take this, I’m rolling with it. I have been overwhelmingly re-elected to serve another four years, and my city believes in me that I am going to do the right thing, and I will,” she said. 

10 On Your Side spoke with Meeks off-record. All we can report from that conversation is that he was as surprised as anyone when they re-voted and took away what had been given to him. 


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