Charges dismissed against Hopewell city council member

Posted at 1:02 PM, Sep 19, 2012
and last updated 2012-09-19 18:09:23-04

HOPEWELL, Va. (WTVR) - Charges have been dismissed against a Hopewell city council woman who had been accused of a conflict of interest.

Brenda Pelham, who is employed by Hopewell schools, said she believes the charges were politically motivated – and is relieved the ordeal is finally over.

Pelham told CBS 6 News' Wayne Covil Wednesday it has been tough, but that she had faith the charges would be dismissed.

It has been a long year for the former mayor who has spent eight-and-a-half years on Hopewell City Council, waiting for the outcome of Thursday's hearing.

Pelham said the misunderstanding came about because of a vote on the school budget. 

"I thought that as long as I wasn't voting on the budget involving the guidance department, a separate department of Hopewell Public Schools," said Pelham. "I didn't know it meant the entire budget and so that misunderstanding created this issue for me."

However, the Hopewell Public School employee now understands she made a mistake.

Homer Eliades, Pelham's attorney, said that technically it might have been a violation, but that the issue came about because "of the political situation here in Hopewell." 

Mike Herring, the special prosecutor, asked for the dismissal of the last three charges after the other ten were dismissed last year. Herring said he saw no intent to gain from the vote cast by Pelham. He also said he was concerned the charges may have been politically motivated, though he believes the commonwealth's attorney had no part in that.

Additionally, Pelham told Covil she will now make a full disclosure when she votes.

"I don't abstain -- all the form says is that I can vote in an un-biased manner. It doesn't preclude me from voting. That's the irony of the whole law," said Pelham.