- Associated Press - Thursday, November 5, 2015

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) - The mayor of Virginia Beach has been charged with five misdemeanor counts of violating the state’s Conflict of Interest Act.

Mayor Will Sessoms was charged Wednesday for votes he cast that benefited borrowers of the bank where he served as a president, the Virginian-Pilot reports (https://bit.ly/1PolQHA).

The charges are punishable by a maximum fine of $500 each, prosecutor Michael Doucette said in an email. A trial has been set for Dec. 7, but that could change to accommodate Sessoms’ attorney, Doucette said.

The newspaper reported last year that 61-year-old Sessoms, a former TowneBank president, had voted dozens of times on issues that benefited clients of the bank.

Sessoms has denied wrongdoing. He resigned from the bank last December after its policies were changed to prohibit senior management from holding elective office.

The votes upon which Sessoms is facing charges involved projects associated with the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, the 25th Street Project and Madison Landing LLC, all entities that Doucette said were customers of TowneBank while Sessoms was the president of the bank. The five votes were cast between 2011 and 2014.

The Virginian-Pilot investigation found that the mayor voted on agenda items at least 60 times involving developers, businesses and individuals who received TowneBank loans. Doucette said he was either unable to find sufficient evidence for criminal prosecution in connection with the other votes or the five-year statute of limitations had expired.

Sessoms didn’t answer his cellphone Wednesday night.

Vice Mayor Louis Jones declined to comment about the charges Wednesday night. The rest of the City Council members could not be reached.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne, a longtime Virginia Beach resident who previously served on the Commonwealth Transportation Board said, he thinks Sessoms made a mistake and that the mayor must now decide whether he should resign.

“We all make mistakes, and I believe he has the best interest of the city at heart,” Layne said.


Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, https://pilotonline.com

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