Former councilman and mayoral candidate Danny Meeks almost became Portsmouth’s city manager Tuesday. In fact, city council approved his appointment – only to unanimously reject it less than 15 minutes later.
The pulled vote headlined a bizarre council meeting that featured a spirited debate over Meek’s qualifications for the position.
“This would be the worst scenario,” said Mayor Shannon Glover, who defeated Meeks in the November election.
Councilman Chris Woodard motioned that the council appoint Meeks to the city manager position. Councilman Paul Battle supported the appointment given Meeks’ “knowledge of the city.” Meeks once served on Portsmouth City Council.
“Anyone else would have to be trained, but he can come in right away,” said Battle.
However, Meeks did not apply for the position, said Glover. The city received more than 75 applications for the role, according to the mayor. Furthermore, the city of Portsmouth paid a consulting firm $22,000 to advise the search and provide a recommendation, and that work has not yet been presented.
Councilwoman Lisa Lucas-Burke questioned Meeks’ qualifications and claimed he did not fit the criteria listed on the application.
“This is not a person we should vote for as a smart council people,” she said.
Still, an original 4-3 vote passed to appoint Meeks as city manager. Vice Mayor De’Andre Barnes and Councilmembers Battle, Bill Moody and Christopher Woodard voted in favor. Glover, Lucas-Burke and Dr. Mark Whitaker voted against it.
Following the vote, the city clerk informed council members they needed to decide on Meeks’ salary.
“I will not approve a dime of the citizens' money without knowing what we are getting into,” said Glover.
The conversation led to a recess, and the council emerged with a change of heart. Less than 15 minutes after approving Meeks' appointment, the council unanimously rejected the decision.
However, the council approved an extension of the application deadline, which allows Meeks another opportunity to apply. The application process originally closed on January 4 but will now extend to January 20.
There were also concerns that Councilman Bill Moody worked for Meeks. Moody said he is a former employee of a company owned by Meeks, but he claimed the business closed July 1, 2020.