PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Three members of the "Portsmouth 19" - the 19 people charged in connection with a protest at Portsmouth's Confederate monument in June - were unsuccessful in filing charges against two Portsmouth City Council members for "breaking the law."
Members of the group, including Portsmouth NAACP President James Boyd, headed into the magistrate's office Friday afternoon in an attempt to file the charges against council members Bill Moody and Elizabeth Psimas. Boyd says he saw emails Moody sent to former City Manager Dr. Lydia Pettis Patton and other leaders telling police officers to arrest protesters.
Reportedly, the chief magistrate, who is from Virginia Beach, said the group doesn’t have enough evidence or supporting documents.
UPDATE | Three members with the #Portsmouth19 were unsuccessful in filing charges against Moody and Psimas.— Nana-Séntuo Bonsu (@NSBonsu_) September 11, 2020
Louie Gibbs tells us the chief magistrate who is from Virginia Beach said they group doesn’t have enough evidence to file charges @WTKR3 https://t.co/mMOtrzeI64
The group attempted to file the charges in reference to Section 3.11 of Portsmouth City Code, which states that "neither the City Council nor any of its members shall direct or request the appointment of any person to or the removal of any person from any office or employment by the City Manager or by any of the Manager's subordinates, or in any way take part in the appointment of or removal of officers and employees of the city except as specifically provided in this Charter."
This section of the city code can be read in full below:
3.11. Noninterference in appointments or removals.
Neither the City Council nor any of its members shall direct or request the appointment of any person to or the removal of any person from any office or employment by the City Manager or by any of the Manager's subordinates, or in any way take part in the appointment of or removal of officers and employees of the city except as specifically provided in this Charter. Except for the purpose of inquiry, the City Council and its members shall deal with the administrative services of the city solely through the City Manager. Neither the City Council nor any member thereof shall give orders either publicly or privately to any subordinate of the City Manager. Any Council Member violating the provisions of this section or voting for a motion, resolution or ordinance in violation of this section shall be guilty of a class three misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall forfeit office as a Council Member. (2011, c. 640)
State Senator L. Louise Lucas, NAACP members, school board members and public defenders were among several recipients of felony warrants issued in relation to the protest, where a man was severely injured. The injury happened after part of a statue fell on him as protesters tried to remove it.
On September 8, Patton submitted her resignation effective immediately via an email she sent to city council. City council members held a virtual meeting on Tuesday afternoon, where they voted to accept Patton's resignation in a 4-3 vote. LaVoris Pace has been appointed the interim city manager.
The charges come at a time of turmoil for the city. Last week, Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene was placed on administrative leave, and this week, City Attorney Solomon Ashby was fired during Tuesday's city council meeting. Portsmouth Mayor John Rowe told News 3 the departures did not have anything to do with the police chief.
JUST IN | Some members of the #Portsmouth19 say they are heading into the magistrate’s office to file charges against @cityofPortsVA council members Bill Moody and Elizabeth Psimas for ‘breaking the law’. We will have details when the group comes out @WTKR3 pic.twitter.com/JqIJZ9cPyE— Nana-Séntuo Bonsu (@NSBonsu_) September 11, 2020