Portsmouth city council discusses Confederate monument at closed meeting

Posted at 6:21 PM, Dec 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-09 18:21:53-05

Portsmouth, Va. -  The Confederate war memorial in downtown Portsmouth is at the center of controversy for city council once again.

However, the controversy this time is not about moving the monument—but about the discussion itself.

City council member Mark Whitaker motioned to keep the public out of the conversation,  citing legal reasons.

“We have to discuss the litigation strategy and that's what this is,” Dr. Whitaker said.

“I think I feel like it should be a public conversation, so I vote no,” Councilman Bill Moody said.

Even with Councilman Bill Moody's ‘no’ vote, the motion to close the discussion was passed 5-2.

Mayor Kenny Wright tells NewsChannel 3 the meeting needed to be behind doors because it involved litigation and it's a discussion that could adversely affect the city if done in public.

But Nic Hagen, who owns a business near the monument, feels that the public should know what's going on in the city no matter what, especially on issues as big as this.

"Why isn't everything discussed publicly? Basically, it has to do with the public. It has to do with our land or what's around us so why isn't it our thing?" Hagen said.

He feels the city has something to hide.

"If you got nothing to hide, open your doors and let them know there's nothing to lie about. But that's what they seem like they do," Hagen said.

Adriene Williams says she trusts the mayor.

"I'm okay with trusting them because they aren't going to do anything to hurt Portsmouth," she said.

Even though Williams has a strong opinion on what should happen to the monument and wants to be a part of that discussion, she understands.

"If they say it's for legal reasons and I'm going to believe that's what it's for. So that's why they closed it, okay so be it--it's closed," Williams said.

None of the councilmembers were able to tell NewsChannel 3 what was discussed because it was a closed session.

However, the mayor did talk to Nadeen Yanes and said the meeting needed to be closed for legal reasons, but he could not comment on the exact reasons.