Portsmouth City Council fires city manager — again
Portsmouth’s City Council has fired City Manager Tonya Chapman.
It happened just minutes after two newly elected members of council were sworn in at a special meeting Tuesday morning.
Two council members - De’Andre Barnes and Mark Whitaker - voted against Chapman’s firing.
Barnes noted that he was not upset about the vote.
"This council is not doing anything the previous council didn’t do. They have the majority…they want to bring in someone who they feel comfortable with. I’m not mad at them," he said during the meeting.
Chapman, who is also a former Portsmouth Police Chief, is the third city manager to be fired or resign under pressure in Portsmouth since 2020.
Barnes and Whitaker were part of a group on council that led the ouster of City Manager April Jones last May. The four-member majority then voted to install Chapman, a former Portsmouth police chief, as the new city manager in June.
But in last year’s City Council election, two of the members of that majority lost their seats, reversing the balance of power..
Now a five-member block has a strong hold on the actions of the seven-member council.
Councilman Bill Moody said his motion to fire Chapman with cause was due to "willfully engaging in conduct that is injurous to the city." Firing for cause would mean Chapman wouldn't get a $400,000 severance pay-out that the old majority inserted into her contract.
The others on council argued at the time Chapman’s backers included the unusually high severance clause in her contract to make it more expensive to fire her.
The final vote was 5-2 to fire Chapman.
Both Barnes and Whitaker said during the meeting that they did not believe material that had been shared in a closed session ahead of the meeting warranted Chapman's firing.
The council appointed Mimi Terry as interim city manager Tuesday.
Terry was a deputy city manager under Jones, who became the interim city manager briefly when Jones was fired last year.
A few months after Chapman was installed as city manager, Terry was gone. It’s unclear if she was fired or left. Now she’s back in charge, at least for now.
Chapman is the latest casualty in an ongoing battle over control of the direction of Portsmouth.
A string of police chiefs have also been hired and fired in the last four years. The city is seeking its fourth police chief in as many years.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to clarify the status of Chapman's severance payment.