Portsmouth City Council votes to fire city auditor

Jesse Andre Thomas (photo courtesy of the city of Portsmouth)

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Portsmouth City Council voted Tuesday night to fire auditor Jesse Andre Thomas.

Led by Vice Mayor Elizabeth Psimas, council voted 5 – 2 to terminate Thomas.

Psimas, along with Councilman Bill Moody, has been vocal the last few months about taking such action. She made a similar motion in March, which failed 3 – 3. During that vote, Psimas had suggested removing the entire auditor position within the city.

Prior to the city council meeting, Thomas got up during the public work session to give a planned presentation on a recycling program and Craney Island Landfill audit.

Thomas didn’t get one word in before five council members agreed, the presentation didn’t need to happen. One council member said the effort was “too late in the game.”

Mayor Kenny Wright and Councilman Mark Whitaker voted against the motion on Tuesday. Whitaker called the move reckless and a disservice.

“I believe that the standard that was used to make the decision was one that was not based on any type of criteria,” said Whitaker. “But, I think that it was based on random decision.”

Thomas was appointed the city’s first and only auditor in 2013. Before the meeting, Thomas explained to 10 On Your Side the position is complicated because it’s never been done before, and because he does not work with, or have, a designated staff. Although he did say he has about five city employees he works with regularly.

Jesse Andre Thomas (photo courtesy of the city of Portsmouth)
Jesse Andre Thomas (photo courtesy of the city of Portsmouth)

Psimas and Moody both claim they received little to no information on the work he has done during his time.

“The auditor has certainly had an opportunity to perform, has not performed in almost three years,” explained Moody.

In previous votes related to the auditor, Psimas and Moody have had the support of Councilman Danny Meeks, who voted in favor of Thomas’ termination. Councilman Paige Cherry and Councilman Curtis Edmonds have previously supported the auditor. However Tuesday night, they agreed to fire Thomas.

Neither Cherry nor Edmonds wanted to comment on the specifics of the decision.

Edmonds did tell 10 On Your Side after the meeting, “It’s not an easy thing to do. You don’t take joy in situations like that. But, you do what’s necessary for the city. After all, that’s what our jobs are.”

Before leaving the meeting, Thomas said working for the city was a great opportunity, and also the most challenging job he’s ever had.

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