A legal challenge aimed at ousting Richmond Councilman Parker Agelasto for moving out of the district he was elected to represent died Thursday in Richmond Circuit Court.
Judge William R. Marchant declined to issue a declaratory judgment deeming Agelasto’s seat on the City Council vacant after his move last year. Seeking the judgment was former Councilman Henry “Chuck” Richardson, who is among a field of candidates vying to replace Agelasto on the nine-member council in a special election scheduled for November.
“It’s absurd,” Richardson said after the ruling.
Marchant said the judgment Richardson requested was not the procedurally proper way to pursue removal of an elected official. A different filing, called a writ of quo warranto, was the correct way, he said.
Earlier this year, then-Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring declined to file a writ of quo warranto on the matter. Instead, he struck a deal with Agelasto, allowing the councilman to continue serving on the council until Nov. 30.
The settlement allowed for a special election to be scheduled Nov. 5 so voters of the district could elect a successor, an outcome that Herring and Agelasto’s lawyer have said guaranteed no disruption to the district’s representation. Herring resigned last month to take a job in private practice.
But the deal riled Richardson, who said it amounted to Agelasto setting the terms of his own punishment. After Thursday’s hearing, Richardson said he intended to ask interim Commonwealth’s Attorney Collette McEachin to make the filing.
A separate challenge by another former councilman, Sa’ad El-Amin, also encountered a procedural stumbling block earlier this summer. El-Amin resubmitted his challenge in July, but no hearing has been scheduled on his new filing to date.
In April, Agelasto announced his plan to resign at the end of November, 13 months before his term expires. He has served as the council’s 5th District representative since 2013. The district encompasses the neighborhoods of Randolph, Oregon Hill, Woodland Heights, Swansboro, Byrd Park, Maymont, Carytown and part of the Fan.
Last year, Agelasto moved from the Fan District to the city’s West End. He said he needed to make the move to accommodate his growing family; his wife was pregnant with the couple’s second child at the time. The move came to light in media reports after Agelasto had announced publicly that he would not seek re-election to the council in 2020.
Agelasto’s colleagues on the council criticized him for the move but did not attempt to unseat him, citing advice from the city attorney that the nine-member body lacked the authority to do so.
Likewise, Richmond’s general registrar declined to hold a hearing on whether Agelasto forfeited his voter registration status by moving out of the 5th District.
Agelasto has continued to attend meetings of the council, cast votes and meet with his constituents. He was not present in court Thursday.