Executive director of Portsmouth Housing Authority fired

Hal Short (WAVY Photo)

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority executive director, Harry “Hal” Short, was fired at a board meeting Tuesday evening.

According to the PRHA website agenda, the board held a “Specially Called Commissioners’ Meeting regarding Personnel Matters.”

The Board of Commissioners voted 4-2 on Tuesday to terminate Short, according to Portsmouth Attorney Verbena Askew.

Short was fired one day after he had handed in 30-day notice to retire after working for PRHA 44 years. Short’s wife confirmed Wednesday that they are getting an attorney.

“I wouldn’t treat a dog that way,” says Portsmouth City Councilwoman Elizabeth Psimas, who says Short was wronged.

10 On Your Side went to Short’s home. His wife answered the door and said, “I’m sorry he’s not available… I’m sorry he has no comment until he gets a lawyer.”

As his wife spoke, we could hear Short behind the door. He never came out.

Short is likely to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against PRHA, and Psimas finds it head scratching strange that it would get to this. Why not just wait 30 days for Short to retire?

“Now they have themselves a possible lawsuit, another lawsuit… It’s shameful, just shameful,”  Psimas says, keeping in mind that federal taxpayers would pay the legal fees for what could be an unnecessary lawsuit brought on by PRHA.

One source speculated that the board did this so PHRA would not have to honor the last two years of Short’s contract.

Short’s termination has been in the works for at least two weeks.

Acting Executive Director Donnell Brown, who retired from the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, has temporarily taken over.

“I was interviewed roughly two weeks ago,” Brown said. “I guess they were thinking about making some changes.”

10 On Your Side was told Short was fired for under performance of duties, but no specifics were given. Three sources confirmed that one of the issues is the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) concerns about an improper contract for legal services awarded to Portsmouth Attorney Eric Moody. PRHA is now being sued by the losing firm.

As WAVY News reported in July, Short’s response to correct the problem promised HUD the “Authority will issue a new RFP (Request for Proposal) for legal services in July 2016.”

Psimas says that upset Chairwoman Flossie Bridgeford, who supported Eric Moody’s bid.

“This particular chairman has gone on a roll of embarrassing things with this board, including this scandalous bid process for their legal work,” Psimas said. “If it’s up to me, she’s out for sure… She’s been a horrible chairman, just horrible.”

Psimas and the council members may get the last word on this, because the PRHA board is appointed by city council. There are at least three votes to remove Bridgeford, but a fourth is needed. Psimas says she is for replacing the whole PRHA board.

An interesting note: You won’t believe who Hal Short’s neighbor is across the street: PRHA Chairwoman Flossie Bridgeford, who refused to return knocks or calls from 10 On Your Side. This is a case of neighbor firing neighbor.

Councilwoman Psimas says Bridgeford and the entire board needs to be replaced, and that topic could come up at the next council meeting Tuesday.


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