City manager, city attorney both out in Portsmouth

Posted at 8:59 PM, Apr 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-15 17:39:39-04

Portsmouth, Va. - Two top officials for the city of Portsmouth are out of jobs.

City Manager John Rowe and City Attorney George Willson were fired Tuesday night.

Councilmen Bill Moody and Danny Meeks voted against terminating them.  Vice Mayor Elizabeth Psimas voted to terminate Willson but not Rowe.

Councilman Moody told NewsChannel 3 he does not know why some on council made the decision to fire them now.

Rowe had already announced he was resigning in June; Willson was planning to retire in December.

Mayor Kenny Wright said the decision to fire Rowe was largely because of the budget.

Rowe had proposed a 17-cent tax increase, which is a significant change for citizens.  Many on city council were unhappy with the proposal.  Wright said with only a month left to finish the budget, there was not time to waste.

Moody said council was already working with Rowe to make changes, though, and it was not worth firing Rowe.

It is still unclear why Willson was terminated.  City council said Willson was terminated "not for cause."  No one has given NewsChannel 3 any specific reasons.

Moody said both Willson and Rowe were good public servants and did not deserve to be treated the way they were.

"I thought they were doing a good job.  In Mr. Rowe’s case, he came on board in a very difficult time.  He picked up the gauntlet and actually helped us resolve some major problems in the city during his tenure.  Mr. Wilson had served the city for 30 plus years and he also had done a good job," Moody said.

There were more than 20 speakers from the public at Tuesday's city council meeting.  Many of them were upset about the departures.

"I'm ashamed of the city council, at least some of them, the way they've treated these two individuals," said one citizen.

Many were also upset about the raises given to the replacements for Rowe and Willson.

Brannon L. Godfrey is now the interim city manager and has been given a 10 percent salary increase.

Deputy City Attorney Cheran Cordell is now the interim city attorney and was also given a ten percent salary increase.