City council votes to remove three PRHA board members

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Three members of the Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners were ousted on Tuesday.

In three motions, city council voted 6-1 to remove PRHA Chairwoman Flossie Bridgeford and commissioners Danielle Jones and Joe Fleming. The action came following separate hearings for Jones and Bridgeford, where each woman fought to remain on the board. Fleming didn’t show.

“I am not here tonight to fight for my seat, but to fight for what is right,” Bridgeford told council.

Vice Mayor Paige Cherry called the vote difficult, but concluded “we just need a fresh start.”

The commissioners stood accused of inefficiency and neglect of duty.

Councilman Mark Whitaker was the lone dissenter, challenging the process from the start. Regarding the accusations, he stated “there was no standard that was given.” Whitaker also accused certain council members of having already made up their minds prior to the hearings.

Council voted to hold the hearings two weeks ago, following several controversies involving the PRHA. 10 On Your Side has reported on HUD assessments, a battle over legal procurement and the firing of longtime Executive Director Hal Short.

“When I see their actions on your TV stations week after week after week, there’s a problem,” councilwoman Elizabeth Psimas said. “When all was said and done, you just have to start fresh.”

During their initial pleas, Bridgeford and Jones didn’t focus on the controversies, but rather touted their qualifications, training, commitment to the tenants and awards received under their leadership.

“I am not a quitter,” Jones said.

After each was provided the opportunity to speak, council members probed the women. Councilman Bill Moody questioned Bridgeford on the removal of Short.

She responded: “That’s a legal matter and I refuse to answer that.”

During Jones’ questioning, it was revealed that she was not on the board during the legal procurement matter.

When council entered a closed session following the hearings, Whitaker remained in council chambers for the majority of the time. He repeatedly called the removal an “injustice.”

During the public comment portion, one citizen spoke out in support of him.

“There was no evidence presented,” the citizen said.

But another speaker, Pastor Barry Randall, expressed disdain for Whitaker.

“It’s mind blowing that we have one person on city council that will choose to be divisive,” the pastor said. “It is not coincidence that he is near the door, because before long, I guarantee you he’ll be outside the door.”

Some in chambers applauded as Randall concluded, “We are trying to take our city forward.”

Jones and Bridgeford left after their hearings and did not return to chambers for the vote.

Two other board members — Joe Haskell and Teresa Gunn — resigned last week. Commissioners serving longer than six months were given the option to resign or fight for the role during Tuesday’s hearings.

That leaves only two commissioners on the board. Psimas said she expects to appoint additional commissioners, as well as a new executive director, come March.

“We have a name bank,” Moody said. “We are fortunate that we have a lot of volunteers that have applied for not only the housing authority but other Portsmouth commissions.”