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City Council appoints new commissioner, plans hearing on proposed firing of PRHA board

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - The Portsmouth City Council is asking the city's Redevelopment and Housing Authority board to resign.

City council voted 6-1 Tuesday night in favor of holding a hearing on the proposed firings. Councilman Mark Whitaker was the only 'no' vote.

They drafted this letter to give to commissioners who have served longer than six months.

Dr. Whitaker argued that the concerns cited in the letter are from an on-site assessment that HUD did in March and the matters did not involve the current board members.

"There's a grave injustice that is about to be done by a group of people."

However, other council members, like Elizabeth Psimas, argued that HUD would not have come back for another review in December if that were the case.

The findings of that review have not been made available yet.

"This is serious when HUD comes in and audits what is going on, that is serious," she says. "We finally decided the best way to do this was get rid of everybody and start fresh."

Under state code, the council is obligated to provide written notice before firing board members.

Councilwoman Psimas says she's been pushing to replace the board for a long time, citing a number of issues including legal troubles, reports of a hostile work environment, micro-management of the authority and the firing of longtime PRHA Executive Director Hal Short.

"They'll be gone," says Psimas. "It's the right thing to do."

City council also appointed a new commissioner, Davy Smith III, to replace a commissioner who ended her term last year.

Smith is a former chairman on the city's Planning Commission and grew up in Jefferson Wilson homes, which is now Seaboard Square.

"It's humbling, it's an honor," he tells News 3.

According to the letter the hearing will be held February 28 at 5 p.m. Board members who wish to resign can do so by close of business Feburary 21.