PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Portsmouth City Council has voted to appoint former Portsmouth Police Chief Tonya Chapman to be the next city manager starting June 22.
The 4-3 vote occurred during a city council meeting Tuesday, two weeks after a previous attempt to appoint Chapman failed.
Chapman will receive the same yearly pay as the former city manager: $200,000.
The meeting was filled with open bickering among council members, threats of removal and ultimately ended early. Community advocates said the whole episode only continued to reinforce a negative overall image of the city.
The motion to appoint Chapman was again made by Councilman Mark Whitaker. Vice Mayor De’Andre Barnes, council members Paul Battle and Christopher Woodard joined him in making the appointment.
This four men are also the ones who fired previous City Manager Angel Jones in late May, after just 13 months on the job.
Mayor Shannon Glover and council members Lisa Lucas-Burke and Bill Moody again objected, saying they had been left out of the process. Moody likened the behavior of the four council members as a “coup.”
“We have some council members who may believe they might be magicians or pimps because they keep trying to pull tricks by their sleeves,” Lucas-Burke said. “I am not amused and I am not entertained by the circus act. I don’t know what the sense of urgency is.”
Chapman, whose tenure with the city was fraught with challenges and controversy, resigned as chief in 2019 after three years of leading the force. She then was appointed as Chair of the Virginia Parole Board by former Gov. Ralph Northam. Controversy also followed her there.
Chapman did not return multiple requests for comment Tuesday night.
“My fundamental problem with this … we have a candidate who was not discussed by the whole council. Who was fire/released by the City of Portsmouth,” Glover said.
Sparks started to fly when Barnes said Moody and Lucas-Burke both voted for Chapman “when we did the process” in 2021.
“That is not true,” Moody said. Glover told Barnes if he spoke “untruths” he would be ruled out of order and asked to leave the chamber.
Following the vote, Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover directed Whitaker to be thrown out of the meeting after Whitaker asked him to “maintain order.” However, Whitaker’s allies voted to override his order letting Whitaker stay in his seat.
Whitaker said he felt Chapman would be a unifying force. Following the meeting, he told reporters he had planned to read a statement explaining why he voted to fire Jones.
However, Glover motioned to adjourn the meeting prematurely and Barnes, Battle and Woodard joined him in ending the meeting.
“As the leader of this council, this meeting is no longer productive. We have reached a point where this is a divided council. So it does not make sense to continue on with a divided council to move forward. We’ve got to regroup and come together.”
Glover later said he regrets not letting the public speak and apologizes for “letting the citizens down.”