Bill would automatically suspend officials upon felony conviction

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) – After a federal jury found Norfolk City Treasurer Anthony Burfoot guilty of corruption in December, the deputy city attorney filed a motion to suspend him.

City council members voted unanimously for Burfoot’s resignation. The treasurer’s attorney, Andrew Sacks, said his client had no plans to resign.

Prosecutors had accused Burfoot of getting thousands in kickbacks when he served on city council.

New legislation making its way through the General Assembly would change things for people in situations like Burfoot’s. Del. Steve Heretick (D – Portsmouth) said House Bill 2364 would suspend local elected officials upon conviction of a felony offense.

Proposed bill would suspend elected officials after felony conviction

“This bill actually amends existing Virginia law and obviously reflects some real-world experience that the City of Norfolk is currently having and basically would prevent an elected official from continuing to earn taxpayer dollars, having been convicted of a felony,” he said.

Under the bill, the official’s salary would be put in escrow during the appeal process. John Wesley Hill, who has been behind the effort to recall Burfoot, supports the legislation.

“We think that if a person is convicted by a bonafide jury of a city or a state or federal jury, that that person should automatically be suspended,” Hill said.

But would the bill directly affect Burfoot? Heretick isn’t sure.

“Certain laws affect these cases in certain ways, and honestly, I don’t know if this would serve to suspend Mr. Burfoot upon the governor’s signature, or whether it would simply work prospectively for anyone else who commits a crime while serving in office,” Heretick said.

WAVY News left messages for Burfoot’s attorney. Last month, he filed several motions challenging the guilty verdict.

Heretick’s bill is still making its way through the House. Sen. Lynwood Lewis has similar legislation.