PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — In an odd turn of events, Portsmouth City Council voted to appoint a former council member — one who never submitted an application — to the position of city manager.
Portsmouth City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday night to appoint former council member Danny Meeks as city manager, succeeding former City Manager Dr. Lydia Pettis Patton, who abruptly resigned in September.
Shortly after the vote, and following a closed session, City Council then backpedaled, voting unanimously to revote and vote against appointing Meeks Tuesday night.
Instead, the same 4-3 majority voted to reopen the application process and make deadline to apply for the city manager position Jan. 20. This is the second time they extended the deadline.
This all happened without any official city manager action being listed on the agenda, and left noticeable tension between members of a council that has only been working together less than two weeks.
“I have no idea what all that was all about,” said Councilwoman Lisa Lucas-Burke, following the meeting.
Newly-appointed Councilman Christopher Woodard made the initial motion to appoint Meeks near the end of Portsmouth’s virtual council meeting Tuesday, despite telling a reporter prior to the meeting he wanted to wait for a discussion before making any decisions.
Vice Mayor De’Andre Barnes and council members Paul Battle and Bill Moody joined Woodard in voting for Meeks.
Battle was the most outspoken in his support for Meeks.
“I think that Mr. Meeks will do a wonderful job, simply of his experience and knowledge of the city,” Battle said. “Mr. Meeks is a very successful business man.”
Battle also said he favored Meeks because he wouldn’t have to be trained like someone from outside of the city.
Mayor Shannon Glover along with council members Lucas-Burke and Mark Whitaker voted against appointing Meeks in the initial vote, with Glover saying it would be “the worst situation for the City of Portsmouth.”
The issue for Glover: Meeks hadn’t applied for the job and doesn’t meet the minimum educational standards.
The application sent out by GovHRUS states “Candidates must possess a bachelor’s degree in public administration, business administration, urban planning or related field along with at least 7 years’ experience in a senior executive position in a municipal or closely comparable operation, similar to the City of Portsmouth.”
The council has yet to hear the final report from GovHRUSA, the headhunter they have paid more than $22,500 to conduct a nationwide search for city manager. More than 70 people had applied by the end of November 2020.
“This is not about personal vendettas, this is not about personal politics. This is about the executive officer, the chief executive officer in the City of Portsmouth and I will not stand by and let that be made a mockery of,” Glover said prior to the initial vote.
Meeks, recently lost a bid for the Portsmouth mayor’s seat to Glover and ran attack ad’s against him during the campaign.
Meeks served on Portsmouth City Council from 2013 until he resigned before his term was up in November 2016.
Meeks never went to college, but has owned several businesses including Empire Services, Inc. His wife owns Finks Inc. Towing, Body Repairs and Sales in Portsmouth.
Meeks could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday night.
As quickly as he was appointed however, came the request for a revote by Moody.
Moody did not immediately return requests for comment following the meeting.
Barnes, prior to the council meeting said he had not talked about the appointment with Meeks or any other council members prior to the meeting and had not given it much thought.
“I didn’t lie sir,” he texted a reporter after the meeting. “I heard the argument for and against just like everyone else.”
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