Portsmouth spends nearly $55,000 in suit against council member

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – The City of Portsmouth spent nearly $55,000 in legal fees defending a lawsuit filed by Councilman Bill Moody, city officials report.

Last month, 10 On Your Side reported that a judge ruled in Moody’s favor, determining that certain council members violated the Freedom of Information Act when they slapped him with a $1,500 fine.

The fine stemmed from a controversial city rule that prohibits council from discussing closed matters publicly.

During Tuesday night’s council meeting, Moody and Vice Mayor Elizabeth Psimas tried to rescind the rule.

Psimas filed a motion to discuss rules of order and procedure among council members. But the motion was denied when only she, Moody and Councilman Curtis Edmonds voted in favor.

Moody then filed a motion to specifically rescind the rule, but only he and Psimas voted in favor.

Both Psimas and Moody were against the rule from the start. Tuesday, they hoped others would agree to throw it out, seeing that the city reportedly spent $54,638 defending itself in the suit against Moody.

“On a city that’s cash strapped, it’s pretty sad that our leadership decided to pursue something that was illegal,” Moody told 10 On Your Side. “And it’s costing the taxpayers.”

10 On Your Side approached Mayor Kenny Wright about the matter both before and after the council meeting, but he had no comment.

Psimas said that the fight to rescind the rule isn’t over.

“People are very upset with non-transparent government,” she said. “And a mayor who says to you reporters just tonight – ‘no comment’ – you know that’s why there are 10 people running for three seats on city council and five people running for mayor. Because they are not happy, and I don’t blame them.”

Moody said that the city is also on the hook for his legal fees, which he estimates are between $8,000 to $10,000. He adds that Councilman Danny Meeks, who wasn’t at Tuesday night’s meeting, is also involved in a legal battle over this rule.

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