Citizens of Portsmouth working to recall Vice Mayor De’Andre Barnes and Councilman Mark Whitaker

Posted at 9:31 AM, Jun 14, 2022

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – After growing political fallout, one newly-formed Political Action Committee (PAC) in Portsmouth says the city council needs new blood.

Concerned Citizens of Portsmouth PAC is calling for a recall of two city leaders.

Terry Danaher, who heads the group, brought people together outside City Hall Tuesday to urge them to sign a recall petition to drive Vice Mayor De'Andre Barnes and Councilman Dr. Mark Whitaker out of their positions.

The group is now describing some of its leadership as the gang of four. Community members and activists said Barnes and council members Paul Battle, Chris Woodard and Whitaker are causing division and disruption in the city.

“We have a gang of four that is coming into these meetings already prepared with what they’re going to vote on and how they want to vote on it, so there is some kind of communication going on that is not public, and meetings are supposed to be public,” Danaher said.

The diverse group believes now is the time to stand together as one united front and get the City of Portsmouth back on the right track by holding the elected officials accountable for their actions.

“We feel that the meetings are being hijacked,” said Danaher. “Everybody is supposed to have an equal voice. It isn’t happening that way.”

The PAC formed days after the abrupt and explosive firing of City Manager Angel Jones nearly a month ago. The heated council meeting was the breaking point.

Related: Council members vote to remove Portsmouth city manager during explosive meeting

Barnes, Battle, Woodard and Whitaker voted in favor to fire Jones.

The PAC group is now hoping voters won’t reelect Battle and Woodard in November but is urging people to sign a petition to drive Barnes and Whitaker out now before their terms are up in a couple of years.

“They’re not communicating with the members; they’re not communicating with the voters, and that is the saddest thing,” Danaher said.

Steve Carroll, 65, who’s lived in Portsmouth all his life, said he’s ready to sign the petition.

“I’m all for removing these rascals,” Carroll said. “They don’t deserve to sit up there, and there are several more I don’t think deserve to sit up there. These four in particular have demonstrated a contempt for the proper process of running elected government.”

In a statement Tuesday, Vice Mayor Barnes said, “I’m excited to see our citizens engaged and exercising their rights. My concern is that we have more pressing issues in the city right now. We have been losing our children at an alarming rate, in which even I have been affected by losing my 12-year-old cousin to gun violence. My only hope is that the same passion they’re showing for this, they’ll gather in unity when our kids are getting shot dead in our Portsmouth streets.”

Related: Portsmouth Vice Mayor explains vote to remove city manager

Meantime, Councilman Whitaker told News 3 he’d speak with us at the council meeting Tuesday night and sent a statement that read, “Until then, please let your viewers know that once again, elected officials and citizens have relied on lies, misinformation, and demagoguery to deceive the public in an attempt to silence my voice.”

Activists argue their decision to oust the city manager was made behind closed doors without public discussion, calling it irresponsible and a misuse of their power.

“They have ceased to lead,” said Rev. Kelvin Turner, a member of the MLK Jr. Leadership Steering Committee. “Once they have ceased to lead - or rather lead in a toxic way - then they’re ceased to be representative for what the City of Portsmouth deserves.”

The PAC group said it needs to have at least 8,000 voters sign the petitions, but it’s going beyond that hoping to collect 10,000 signatures as soon as possible. The petitions will then be checked and taken to the local courthouse. Barnes and Whitaker can fight it.

To find where to sign the petitions for Barnes and Whitaker in person, click here.

Related: Petition to recall Portsmouth mayor denied

This is not the first - or even second - time the people of Portsmouth have attempted to recall a city official. Former Mayor James Holley was mayor twice and was recalled twice before being forced out by a for a final time in 2010. Previously published reports claimed Holley was the first in the City of Portsmouth to be recalled twice - once in 1987 and another time in 2010.

The most recent recall attempt was in 2016 with Former Mayor Kenny Wright, Holley’s successor, but a judge denied the petition stating that there were not enough validated signatures to move forward with the recall.