Council seeks to oust PRHA board amidst criminal investigation reports

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Problems for the Portsmouth Regional Housing Authority are piling up.

As reports of an alleged criminal investigation surface, city council members are looking to remove the authority’s board of commissioners.

During Tuesday night’s public meeting, each council member deplored the board’s recent and sudden removal of longtime Executive Director Harry Short.

Executive director of Portsmouth Housing Authority fired

Vice Mayor Elizabeth Psimas started the discussion, arguing that council should immediately take the steps necessary to oust the board.

“This is another black eye on the city,” she said. “We’ve had findings by HUD… and clearly there’s some serious mismanagement going on.”

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Councilman Dr. Curtis Edmonds, Sr., praised Short’s achievements over the course of 44 years, calling him a man of integrity.

But according to Mayor Kenny Wright, taking action to replace the board could be problematic, given an alleged criminal probe.

According to Verbena Askew, an attorney for PRHA, there is a pending criminal investigation centered around the authority’s nonprofit, the “Greater Portsmouth Development Corporation.”

Askew told 10 On Your Side that the investigation does not involve the board, but rather, Mr. Short and his former deputy director, Kathy Warren, who resigned earlier this summer after 19 years with PRHA.

Askew said she saw “red flags” with how the GPDC handled business deals, and that it did not provide documentation to the PRHA board.

Askew plans to meet with City Attorney Solomon Ashby later this week to compare documents.

“Until these findings are complete and until we get the proper data, it probably would be prudent for us to not take any action in the middle of an investigation,” Wright said. “I think that goes on with any investigation, because you don’t want to be accused of tampering or doing something to cause things to go one way or another.”

Askew did not state which agency is conducting the alleged investigation.

Councilman Bill Moody believes that it’s all a lie in effort to prevent council from firing the board. During the meeting, he called on state police to investigate the claims.

“If there is [an investigation], the members of this council should know about it,” he said.

Prior to the meeting, 10 On Your Side visited the home of Short, who didn’t answer the door. Across the street lives PRHA Board Chair, Flossie L. Bridgeford. No one there responded to door knocks either.

Reached over the phone, Warren had no comment.

10 On Your Side contacted multiple agencies to ask whether or not they are leading a criminal investigation. A Portsmouth Police spokeswoman said the department is not conducting a probe.

A spokesperson with the State Corporation Commission was also not aware of any ongoing investigation, and stated that the nonprofit is listed in good standing.

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