PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The City of Portsmouth could have a new city manager before the end of the month, after three council members who voted to terminate the former manager called a special meeting.

Vice Mayor De’Andre Barnes and council members Mark Whitaker and Paul Battle called for a special City Council work session to be held at 5 p.m. Tuesday and then a voting session at 6 p.m., according to City Clerk Debra White. The agenda states council members will discuss and then possibly appoint a city manager.

The three men, joined by Councilman Chris Woodard, voted to fire Angel Jones, the former city manager, Tuesday night after only 13 months on the job.

It is commonplace for the job opening to be posted and for a search to take place before the appointment of what is akin to the CEO of the city. As of now, that hasn’t happened in this case. Deputy City Manager Mimi Terri is currently serving as interim city manager.

Councilwoman Lisa Lucas-Burke, who alongside Mayor Shannon Glover and Councilman Bill Moody said she was “blindsided” by the motion to terminate Jones, isn’t sure who is currently being considered.

“[Whitaker] is acting as he is the mayor,” Lucas-Burke said. “He holds meetings in his church, he calls people to his church.”

Jones confirmed Tuesday night she was summoned to New Bethel Baptist Church last week, where Whitaker is an assistant pastor. It was there she said Whitaker told her he had four votes to fire her if she didn’t resign.

“He couldn’t win mayor,” Lucas-Burke said in an interview Wednesday. “But when he has a four majority council that will follow his lead, and they do. He’s the big doctor, he’s the big professor. They follow in order like three blind mice.”

Whitaker didn’t return several calls Wednesday seeking comment. Someone who answered the door at his waterfront home said he wasn’t in.

Lucas-Burke has a suspicion that the city’s second allotment of $28.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding may have something to do with this the firing, but isn’t sure of his true motives.

“Everybody is just as sorry as they could be is that we gave him a chance and then he backstabbed everybody,” Lucas-Burke said.

Whitaker is a longtime actor in the play that is Portsmouth politics.

Whitaker was first elected to City Council in 2014 and served several terms on the Portsmouth School Board before that.

In 2018, Whitaker was convicted on three counts of felony forgery after a jury found he forged loan documents for $35,000 to demolish a drug-infested apartment complex across from the Baptist church. The investigation leading to the conviction was launched by former Portsmouth sheriff and Whitaker’s political foe Bill Watson.

Upon his sentencing, Whitaker was kicked off City Council.

In the immediate aftermath of Gov. Ralph Northam’s blackface sandal, Northam restored Whitaker’s voting rights and before leaving office granted him an absolute pardon.

He was re-elected to City Council in November 2020 and often speaks about equity and social justice. His church is currently suing the city, claiming its actions led to the church declaring bankruptcy.

Woodard was the only council member to vote to terminate Jones who would speak about the upcoming meeting.

“We may have someone in-house who may be ready to go,” Woodard said.

When asked if he would vote to appoint someone from the outside who didn’t apply, Woodard responded by saying “if it’s someone who could have been a former city manager. Maybe so. Yeah.”

Jones will continue to be paid for six months per her contract. Or the city could choose to give her pay, estimated at $100,000 for half a year, in a lump sum.