PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Former Portsmouth Police Chief Tonya Chapman started her new role as City Manager Thursday.

Portsmouth City Council abruptly voted to fire former City Manager Angel Jones last month. After fights among council members, Chapman was ultimately chosen to fill the post, three years after she left her job as top cop. Council voted 4-3 to approve Chapman’s $200,000 a year contract, in addition to a $10,000 a year car allowance. Chapman will also be reimbursed for her moving expenses from Arlington.

She will receive a $400,000 severance payment if she is fired without cause before this time next year. 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 our without cause. The $400,000 severance is more than the package included for the last four city managers combined.

Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover believes Councilman Mark Whitaker and Vice Mayor De’Andre Barnes wanted to add the large severance so it would discourage a firing without cause if council changes.

“Any person should get a severance based on their experience and what they bring to the position.
Two-year severance, totally off the table. It’s egregious; it’s not acceptable as providing that with the taxpayer’s money,” Glover told WAVY News 10’s Brett Hall on Tuesday.

There was no formal swearing-in ceremony Thursday. Chapman simply took the oath of office given by the deputy city clerk at her request.

Chapman’s first day was originally scheduled to happen Tuesday, but was pushed back because City Council members said her background check was not finished in time.

“I would like to thank Mayor Glover, members of city council, residents and business owners for allowing me this opportunity to once again serve you and this city,”  said Chapman in a statement to 10 On Your Side.

“She had to make a public statement to the citizens that she is going to be serving,” said Portsmouth City Councilwoman Lisa Lucas-Burke who was the only councilmember willing to be interviewed regarding Chapman’s swearing in.  

Lucas-Burke was part of a three-member minority that was given no opportunity to decide who the city manager would be, wasn’t able to interview Chapman, and in this process hasn’t even been in the same room with Chapman. 

“We as a council have to find a way to come together and work with her. We are hoping it will not be an agenda led by the four majority, with the other three just getting to sit by the wayside and watch from the sidelines.” 

Chapman sent 10 On your Side her ambitions as the new city manager which include “making strides in crime reduction, enhancing economic development, ensuring social equity for all, and creating opportunities for unity within the city.”

For Lucas-Burke, two of those stick out: crime, and unity.

“We have a nationwide pandemic. We have crime and the use of handguns. Crime is going to be a tough one because a lot of these issues are domestic matters.” 

“I hope somewhere along the line we can get it together as a seven-member council and come up with a conclusion or solution on how we move forward together.” 

One of Lucas-Burke’s tests for Chapman is for her to push for a council retreat which has not been held since 2018.

“I believe bringing us into a retreat and sitting us down together as elected leaders and professional people that are going to make a difference. We are really in need of a retreat where we can collect our thoughts and minds on where we want to go forward as a city,” said Lucas-Burke. “If the will of the four is willing to do that with the other council, I think that will ease some of the tension.” 

Check WAVY.com for the latest updates.