PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Portsmouth City Council has voted to fire City Manager Angel Jones just one year after her appointment to the position.
Jones was fired by a close 4-3 City Council vote after a contentious exchange between council members Tuesday night. Members voting to fire her were Vice Mayor De’Andre Barnes, Councilman Paul Battle, Dr. Mark Whitaker, and Councilman Christopher Woodard.
Mayor Shannon Glover, Councilwoman Lisa Lucas-Burke and Councilman Bill Moody all voted against the firing.
Lucas-Burke and Moody said they were blindsided by the move. Glover called the move an “egregious injustice.”
“This was an orchestrated move to undermine our CEO,” Glover said. “No way we can move forward with this City Council after this.”
Jones was sworn in as city manager on April 9, 2021 following an extensive — and sometimes controversial — search for a new city manager.
Jones previously served as the city manager for the City of Gaithersburg, Maryland.
After her hire, Glover said Jones was in the top tier of candidates City Council got from their headhunting firm, but she wasn’t originally the council’s choice.
The motion to terminate Jones’ contract was introduced by Whitaker with little notice on Tuesday. The motion was seconded by Battle.
None of those voting to terminate Jones spoke about their reasoning for doing so in the meeting. However, by phone, Barnes — who voted against Jones’ initial appointment — said there are too many shootings in the city and he hasn’t seen action to solve that issue.
“Her crime plan looks like it was written by a ninth grader,” Barnes said.
Glover said last Thursday, several members of City Council were informed that another council member — who Glover didn’t identify — brought Jones to their church and said they had four votes to fire her if she didn’t resign.
10 On Your Side later confirmed the council member was Whitaker, who an assistant pastor at New Bethel Baptist Church. Whitaker didn’t return calls seeking comment.
Glover said the situation was unacceptable.
“This lady of integrity and of purpose has done a phenomenal job here in the City of Portsmouth,” Glover said. “I have watched her support our youth and cry at night when those people are harmed or hurt in our community. And I will not stand by and watch a miscarriage of justice take place.”
Glover called for the city to hold the four council members accountable.
Lucas-Burke also began yelling during the meeting as she criticized the actions of her fellow council members. She insinuated that Jones even looked aside as some council members wanted to get “paid” for votes. Something 10 On Your Side hasn’t yet been able to confirm.
“[Jones] got a lot on this council, and that’s why they want to get rid of her,” Lucas-Burke said. “And I hope that y’all seeing what’s happening, and I hope you make your decision when November comes. I’m pissed as a [expletive]…. yeah, I’ma say it. I’m mad as a [expletive], I am. Because I know what’s been going on.”
After attempts to calm her down weren’t successful, Glover recessed the meeting.
Upon their return, Lucas-Burke apologized for her language. City Council voted on the termination.
Moody said he hadn’t seen a city manager disrespected on the level that Jones experienced Tuesday in a long time.
Following the vote, Moody turned to Barnes and Battle and said “y’all are disgusting. I hope the voters kick both of your [expletives] off this council.”
‘When I elected to apply for this position, I applied to it because it was God’s purpose for my life at the time. So the decisions that men is making on this dais tonight does not control my future. I am going to continue to work on my assignment,” Jones said.
Jones said she was warned that if she didn’t “accept that resignation,” she would be fired — so she wasn’t surprised by what happened Tuesday night.
Following the meeting, Jones said she “feels great” and that she still has hope for the city because of the people who work in the city.
“I don’t believe those four who voted to terminate me control this city. There are other people in this city that can take action and do what I started here,” Jones said. “I know God has a plan for me. Maybe it was to highlight what has been going on in this city and to bring it to light. We talk about equity. We talk about inclusion. But as an African American woman and the treatment that I have received since I have been here. But we got things done in spite of. So I am grateful for that.”
Jones said council members made her work environment hostile.
Portsmouth has a long history of messy politics with racial tensions mixed with personal vendettas, leading to many lawsuits and court battles. Jones would not comment on if she will take legal action.
Her message to citizens was to “be engaged. Hold people accountable and don’t settle for less.”
City Council appointed Deputy City Manager Mimi Terri as interim city manager.