PORTSMOUTH, VA. (WAVY) – Former Portsmouth attorney, sacked in the Confederate City memorial controversy and following a devastating protest against the statue, is suing the city's mayor for defamation.
This is the latest addition to the city's wealth of political disputes.
A lawyer representing former city attorney and Portsmouth native Solomon Ashby filed the lawsuit in Norfolk Circuit Court on October 20 for Mayor John Rowe defaming Ashby's character when speaking to local news reporters after he was fired.
The lawsuit provides for $ 1.5 million in damages and punitive damages of $ 500,000.
Ashby, who served in the city for four years, was dismissed by the city council on September 8, with a 4-3 vote. After that, Rowe told 10 On Your Side That city council planned to meet that day to discuss whether both city manager Lydia Pettis Patton and Ashby should be firedafter both lost confidence in the majority of the council.
The complaint says that Ashby was fired a few days after sending an email asking whether the city council should fire the city manager.
Pressure had increased in the community for the council to remove Patton after hiring Police Chief Angela Greene Administrative leave with payment for a period of 30 days in early September until the result of an internal investigation is available.
Greene has undergone extensive testing according to the department indicted Senator Louise Lucas and other prominent parishioners in connection with a demonstration at the Portsmouth Confederate Monument in the The historical structure was painted and damaged. However, She also received support.
Ultimately, Patton resigned from the action of the council. Rowe then told 10 On Your Side that the council would be "left in the dark" on important issues. In particular, Rowe said the council was unaware that Patton and Ashby kept Hunton's attorneys at Andrews Kurth when they did The FBI began investigating the police department.
Following Ashby's resignation in an interview, Rowe said in a television interview with another broadcaster that an email Ashby had sent days earlier to the council regarding Patton's employment was the "straw that broke the camel's back".
The letter accompanying the complaint set out in detail why Ashby felt that the council should not fire Patton, and it was construed as "an attempt to get into the day-to-day running of the town and the employment status of Dr. Patton's subordinate, Chief Greene. «
He also cautioned against a public vote or motion to crack down on Patton, which could result in a citizen going to a judge and bringing charges against council members who voted to dismiss them.
A few weeks earlier a The Portsmouth resident brought charges against Portsmouth Vice Mayor Lisa Lucas-BurkeYou have violated a section of the city law when she requested that Chef Greene be fired.
"Portsmouth City Council shouldn't take any action when it comes to Dr Patton," said Ashby. "If I can't convince you not to significantly promote a conduct to crack down on Dr. Patton, I may have to retire from the city's office."
Rowe told the media company that the advice in the email was "not very balanced and good advice".
“I've never seen such an opinion. It just didn't make sense, and it doesn't make sense now, ”Rowe said. "The high point is the opinion that you can't fire the city manager, that the city manager is bulletproof and it just won't hold up."
Ashby's attorney Christian Connell claims that the statement was false and Rowe "knew that such a statement was false when he made it".
The lawsuit states that the public prosecutor can only be contractually dismissed for good cause if he has committed a "material breach" of his responsibilities. It is also alleged that Rowe's testimony to the media attributed, or lack of, an inability to discharge the duties of his position with the City of Portsmouth, Ashby
Integrity to perform such duties; and / or … Ashby biased in his job, profession or trade. "
“As a result of the defendant's defamatory testimony, Ashby has harmed and harmed both his personal and business reputation, as well as great humiliation, shame, slander, public shame, scandal and shame. “Is the complaint.
Rowe said he had "no comment" when he got to your site at 10am on Wednesday night.
This is not the first time this year that one of Ashby's opinions has been publicly scolded. In March, Portsmouth Circuit Court Judge Johnny Morrison was not amused When he learned that Ashby had told town council members that if the town council voted to close the jail, they would not have to make the repairs he had ordered on the town jail building.
“What else did you think it was used for? A daycare center? "said an angry Morrison to Ashby.
Nor is this the first time laid-off officials in the city have turned around and sue their former bosses. Within the last three years before Auditor Andre Thomas won a defamation lawsuit against Councilor Elizabeth Psimas and another against Councilor Bill Moody.
Ashby's complaint requires a judicial process by a jury.