PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Former Portsmouth City Manager Tonya Chapman is now asking for her full $400,000 severance payment days after being fired.

Portsmouth City Council approved Chapman’s termination by a 5-2 vote with Councilmen De’Andre Barnes and Mark Whitaker voting against it. Councilman Bill Moody said Chapman was “willfully engaging in conduct which is demonstratively injurious to the city monetarily or otherwise.”

At the heart of the issue is whether the council had cause to fire Chapman. This issue could take a court of law to determine that answer. 

In a response to city council members Tuesday, Chapman stated that her termination was false and “blatantly misleading and not supported with evidence.”

In a letter to now-Vice Mayor Lisa Lucas-Burke and the city council, Chapman claims that Mayor Shannon Glover falsified and/or embellished information to solicit the votes for her termination.

“There are witnesses and evidence that will invalidate his assertions,” said Chapman.

Read the full letter from former Portsmouth City Manager Tonya Chapman here

“During my tenure as city manager, I worked diligently to ensure the city was acting in the best interest of the citizens, I maintained fiscal responsibility, and ensured accountability. I can assure you that I was a good steward of the city’s finances. I have never misrepresented any information nor had a blatant disregard for the truth, as indicated by the mayor. The dismissal of employees was justified and properly documented. I have been informed that the city attorney has the results of the investigations.”

At the end of the letter, Chapman stated that Portsmouth citizens “deserve better” and deserve to know the truth about where “the people’s money” is being spent.

“As a council member, it should be your responsibility to ensure transparency and accountability.”

City Councilman De’Andre Barnes voted not to terminate Chapman and said that the mayor has no evidence against Chapman.

“The information provided by the mayor that had no sources, no details, no evidence,” Barnes stated.

During the meeting where the vote was taken to terminate Chapman, Mayor Glover read from prepared reasons why that should happen, which included:

  • Abuse of power
  • Poor judgement
  • Lack of fiscal responsibility
  • Lack of trust

Glover also notes Chapman’s abuse of power in hiring practices, which Barnes takes issue with.

“We all know…no city council member or mayor is supposed to be interfering with those day-to-day activities…it is not our job to tell her who to hire or how to hire,” Barnes said.

At the time of swearing in, her contract stated that she will receive a $400,000 severance payment if she is fired without cause before her first year as city manager.

That severance amount will get cut in half if she is terminated after that date. 10 On Your Side has obtained an email that shows Chapman did not ask for that severance but rather asked for $200,000 if dismissed with or without cause. The $400,000 severance is more than the package included for the last four city managers combined.

At the center of Chapman’s termination were allegations that $80,000 worth of gift cards went missing. This, however, was cleared during Tuesday’s city council meeting at the conclusion of a city audit.

“There were no missing cards. Zero,” said Mayor Glover insisting the matter be put to bed.

During the audit, city officials said they checked packing slips, purchase invoices, signed confirmation forms and other items, and the finance committee said there were no missing cards.

In December, city council voted 6-1 for the $300,000 forensic audit, with Mayor Glover in opposition.

The gift cards were given to eligible Portsmouth senior citizens, low-income families, and students back in May 2022, with proof of vaccination.

The gift card giveaway resulted in a big turnout with hundreds lined up outside the Portsmouth Sportsplex to receive a card that had a $100 or $500 dollar value.

Check WAVY.com for the latest updates.