Agelasto announces resignation due to residency lawsuits

Published: Apr. 23, 2019 at 11:34 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond City Councilman Parker Agelasto has announced his resignation.

Agelasto has served on the Richmond City Council for six years, representing the 5th District. He had come under fire for moving out of that district but remaining its representative. He was facing a lawsuit over the move and said in a statement he was resigning because of it.

“I have been the target of several legal actions due to my recent relocation to accommodate my expanding family. I have always had to balance my governmental life with my personal life and the prospect of expensive legal actions against me, balanced with the fact that I am not seeking re-election, makes it difficult, if not impossible, to continue serving as your representative,” Agelasto said.

His resignation will take effect Nov. 30.

"By state code, it’s clear. It says if you remove yourself from your district, your seat is deemed vacated,” said former councilman Chuck Robinson.

Richardson is one of those filing suit. He doesn’t buy Agelasto’s decision to resign come November.

"If you resign because of that law this coming November, that means you’re sitting illegally today, in April, and you were sitting last June and you have been sitting illegally ever since you moved,” Richardson added.

Agelasto had previously announced he would not seek re-election and said he had believed that would allow him to continue to serve the district until the completion of his term.

“My arrival at this decision has been exceptionally difficult. Before purchasing our new house, I consulted with City Attorney Allen Jackson last summer on the legality of acquiring a second home but maintaining my domicile on Floyd Ave. The now seemingly dubious advice I was given at that time was that my move to accommodate my family would not impact my ability to serve through the end of my term because I had already decided not to seek re-election," Agelasto’s statement said.

Agelasto said his intention had never been to be in conflict with the law but said vague wording had bolstered the legal challenges.

“While residence is an objective determination, and many people have multiple residences, domicile is subjective and one’s domiciliary intent can only be affiliated with one location. My domiciliary intent is and has always been associated with my home on Floyd Avenue in the 5th District and I have never abandoned that intent. My decision to acquire another residence was made in good faith, based on the legal advice I received in advance, with zero intent to flout the law. I have at all times been honest and forthright in my intentions. Sadly, the law is ambiguous and the advice given by the City Attorney is now being challenged in court. After unsuccessful attempts to discredit my 5th District voting rights with appeals to the Electoral Board and Voter Registrar, I am now the subject of four lawsuits ...” the statement said.

Agelasto has represented the 5th District since he was first elected in 2012.

"I know he's done a lot of good work from what I've seen of him in office…I think it’s kind of a disingenuous ploy to get him out of office,” said taxpayer Sven Philipsen.

"I think it’s important to live where you work, particularly if you’re representing people…If he was looking for a larger space for his family, he could’ve looked within his district,” Elizabeth King added.

Meantime, Richardson says Tuesday’s announcement won’t stop his lawsuit against the councilman.

"Every paycheck he received, every honorarium, every vote he took this upcoming budget and he’s still voting, all of that is in question,” he said.

Agelasto said he sought to avoid the legal process, but will instead focus on changing the wording of the law to better define residency requirements to avoid situations such as his from arising in the future.

“In order to complete my term, I would be forced to bear significant costs of litigation just to prove my own subjective domiciliary intent and, therefore, my continued right to hold the office to which I was properly and duly elected,” Agelasto said in his statement. “If the vagaries of state and municipal law regarding domiciliary intent are not addressed, elected officials could easily continue to make decisions on behalf of their constituents while renting houses in a particular district and living outside of that district, or even outside of the municipality that they represent. It is an occurrence that few seem willing to address, but I will engage our General Assembly delegation and urge them to change state code and our City Charter during the 2020 General Assembly session.”

“I intend to continue seeking Agelasto’s removal because allowing him to continue to occupy this position until the date he noticed his resignation will simply allow him to continue to flaunt the law which is unacceptable. I am in the process of scheduling a hearing date for the court to rule on my request for a temporary and permanent injunction to remove him from City Council,” Sa’ad El-Amin said in a statement sent to NBC 12.

Agelasto said he has asked for a special election to fill his seat to be held in conjunction with the Nov. 5 statewide general election to avoid incurring additional costs.

“I am deeply saddened by the prospect of not serving out the remainder of my term. While this is not the outcome that I anticipated upon the early legal advice I received - and given the substantial, ongoing support I continue to receive from 5th District constituents - it slights in comparison to a concocted crisis that portrays more dysfunction in Richmond, as well as the cost of lengthy and expensive litigation, even though it involves an uncertain legal principle that hinges on subjective intentions," Agelasto’s statement said. "Unfortunately, my desire to resolve ambiguity in the law and provide clarity for future elected officials was not met with the same determination by those who would rather see the 5th District deprived of its duly elected representative.”

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