PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Portsmouth Mayor John Rowe is defending the city manager’s performance while not giving his exact thoughts on what many are calling a “forced resignation“ of the police chief.
At Tuesday’s regularly scheduled council meeting, it was standing room only, as many came to voice their displeasure with the abrupt departure of Chief of Police Tonya Chapman.
“We have made international news once again for nothing good,“ said Sergio Neal in front of City Council.
Chapman issued a four-page letter Monday morning alleging City Manager Dr. L. Pettis Patton forced her to quit. She pointed to racism from some members of the Fraternal Order of Police as a possible reason for her ousting.
“Don’t fall behind the pen of a city manager. Pay attention to the power of those who yield it,“ said James Boyd, President of the Portsmouth NAACP, in a Monday evening press conference, where he suggested council influenced the city managers decision.
Council members remain mostly silent. They’ve been warned by the City Attorney not to talk because of possible litigation in the future.
“Please be aware that regardless of these statements made by the former Chief, the City Council is obligated in accordance with City Charter Sec. 3.11-Noninterference in appointments or removals to refrain from actions that involve the employment of the City Manager’s subordinates … Please take every precaution so that no comment you may make regardless of your best intentions may become part of future litigation,“ Solomon Ashby, Jr. said in an email sent to council members obtained by 10 On Your Side.
Yet, Councilman Shannon Glover did comment through a prepared statement.
“Once again, our city and our community is put in a position that makes us the laughingstock of our region, state and nation,“ Glover said from the dais. “Ultimately the truth will be revealed. For the record, I want to state that I do not believe this matter was handled properly.”
Following the meeting, City Manager Patton ran out a back door, again avoiding questions from the press.
Rowe claimed he didn’t see that happen as “his eyesight isn’t good.“
“I think I’m safe in saying that the majority of Council is satisfied with the performance of the city manager,“ Rowe said. “If we were not we would have a different city manager.”
That is exactly what Portsmouth resident and longtime State Senator Louise Lucas would like to see, a different city manager.
“I expected her to have more integrity than that,“ Lucas said about Dr. Pettis Patton’s handling of the resignation. “Principal comes before anything else. I would not have done it, but she allowed herself to be used because she doesn’t have the backbone to do something like that on her own! She was pushed. I believe the mayor was involved in it, I believe other members of City Council were involved in it, and I damn sure believe the police department was involved in and I and I appalled.“
She concluded by calling Pettis Patton a “puppet“ and called for her to leave her position.
Rowe maintains council is not a part of this.
“Any comment or any reference or any inference that council was involved is just plain wrong,“ Rowe said.
On Tuesday the Portsmouth Fraternal Order of Police released the following statement.
“The Portsmouth Fraternal Order of Police Gosport Lodge #20 would like to take this opportunity to correct recent statements and accusations that were made over the past few days. At no time did the Portsmouth FOP call for or attempt to call for a vote of no confidence of Former Chief Chapman.
The Portsmouth FOP was willing and wanted to establish a good working relationship with Chief Chapman for the benefit of the department and will continue on that path with Chief Greene.
The Portsmouth FOP supports the recent decision made by the City Manager to appoint Angela Greene to the position of Interim Chief and we will stand behind her in this endeavor. We have already spoken with Chief Greene and are looking forward to building a positive relationship with her. We will continue to support the goals of the City of Portsmouth and will strive for excellence in the service we provide to the citizens of this city.“