Portsmouth Vice Mayor Lisa Lucas-Burke, seen in a 2016 campaign photo.

By Ryan J. Reilly

PORTSMOUTH, VA — A white Portsmouth resident filed the charges against Lisa Lucas-Burke, who called for the ouster of city Police Chief Angela Greene.

A mounting political and racial controversy stemming from the destruction of a Confederate monument in Portsmouth, Virginia, intensified this week after a white city resident brought criminal charges against the city’s Black vice mayor.

The resident, Tommy Dubois, alleged that Vice Mayor Lisa Lucas-Burke’s public call for the firing of the city’s police chief constituted a misdemeanor crime under an obscure city statute. Dubois appears to have gotten the idea to press the charges from a Facebook group.

Sheriff’s deputies delivered a summons to Lucas-Burke on Monday morning after Dubois filed the criminal case against her with a magistrate judge. In Virginia’s magistrate system, citizens can bring criminal charges against other individuals by making their case to a judge.

Since a magistrate judge signed off on the complaint, Lucas-Burke will have to appear in court to respond to the allegation that her political speech against Portsmouth’s police chief violated the “noninterference in appointments or removals” provision of the city charter. That document gives Portsmouth’s powerful city manager oversight over the hiring and firing of city employees. 

Lucas-Burke is the daughter of Virginia State Sen. Louise Lucas (D), the highest-ranking elected Black female official in Virginia. Earlier this month, the Portsmouth Police Department circumvented the city’s elected local prosecutor to bring felony charges against Lucas, local civil rights leaders, and Portsmouth public defenders for “injury to” a Confederate monument destroyed in June. The sergeant in the department’s property crimes unit who brought the felony charges previously lashed out against Lucas and the other defendants, criticizing both their actions leading up to the monument’s destruction and the public criticism of the city’s police chief, Angela Greene, who is black.

The charges against Lucas-Burke are misdemeanors that wouldn’t carry any jail time if she is convicted. But if found guilty, she would be forced to forfeit her position as a city council member and give up the vice mayor’s post.

Lucas-Burke told HuffPost she was upset about the charges and believed they’re “bogus.” She declined further comment until after she met with her attorney.

The filing of charges against Lucas-Burke was evidently prodded by a Facebook page calling for the recall of her mother, Lucas, from her state Senate seat. The guidance on how a citizen could charge Lucas-Burke appears to have originated with Virginia Beach attorney Tim Anderson, who wants to oust Lucas from office and accused her of inciting a riot ahead of the monument’s destruction.