Hopewell City Council member could sue city - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

Hopewell City Council member could sue city

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HOPEWELL, VA (WWBT) -

A Hopewell council member could battle her own city in court, after the council refused to reimburse thousands of dollars in legal fees. Councilor Brenda Pelham spent the money clearing her name of misdemeanor criminal charges. Now, she wants Hopewell to cover the costs.

"I believe all things work together for the good, and in the end, I will prevail," Pelham said in an interview Friday. "The Council made a promise to me, and I am frustrated they may not keep it."

Pelham has served on the Hopewell City Council since 2004, and has worked for Hopewell High School since 1990. In May 2011, a grand jury indicted Pelham on conflict of interest charges.

Prosecutors said Pelham never disclosed to city officials that she worked at Hopewell High – a potential problem and conflict of interest when voting on matters related to the school.

"I've never done anything to mislead anyone," Pelham said. "I never intended to break the law."

Ten of 13 charges were dropped. Pelham pleaded no contest to the last three misdemeanors, and the remaining charges were wiped from her record in 2012.

A month after she was indicted, Hopewell's City Council passed a resolution to reimburse Pelham's legal fees if her name was cleared. But Tuesday, a new council reversed the decision in a 3-3 vote.

Councilor Wayne Walton was one of the nay votes, who said in a phone interview Friday payment to Pelham would be a misuse of funds.

"We have to be careful with taxpayer dollars," Walton said. "My constituents are solidly against spending money on this. The resolution vote came up prior to any trial, and I didn't vote for the resolution back in 2011."

Pelham said she has not decided at this point whether she will take the next step and sue Hopewell for a reimbursement.

"It's taxpayer money to protect those proven innocent. And I was."

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