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Lynchburg City Council suspends special meeting agenda indefinitely

LYNCHBURG, Virginia. – A matter revolving around the Lynchburg City Attorney will not be discussed at a special meeting after all.

10 News first reported on the special meeting called by Councilmembers Helgeson and Misjuns last week when the first attempt was made to call the special meeting.

The meeting never took place because there was no quorum among the members of the municipal council. It was postponed until Tuesday, before the work session and the regular council meeting.

City Attorney Matthew Freedman was on vacation when the first meeting was called. He showed up to Tuesday’s meeting with a prepared statement about the allegations made against him.

“Councilman Helgeson indicated that the Alexander v. Faraldi lawsuit is a strictly private matter between two individuals. I respectfully disagree. This is because the outcome of the lawsuit could potentially affect thousands of voters in the city. The city paid for the election and the lawsuit makes very serious allegations against the city registrar and board of elections, who are considered city employees under Virginia law,” Freedman said.

Faraldi won the primary against Peter Alexander by 1,042 votes to Alexander’s 1,009, a margin of 33 votes, or 1.6%, outside the margin for a recount. Alexander is suing Faraldi in Lynchburg Circuit Court to have the primary declared invalid, arguing the results do not take into account 125 absentee ballots. Faraldi’s attorney has called the claim “baseless.”

On June 29, the day after the lawsuit was filed, Freedman called several council members and, according to Helgeson, asked whether the city should get involved.

“We don’t think it’s prudent for city taxpayers to defend a council member in a private lawsuit. We’re now seeing more elements that are exploited threats. The threat of censure, under threat of hostility… the hostility is directed toward the minority that is trying to have openness and transparency,” Helgeson said.

During Tuesday’s special session, the split among council members on the issue was clear. The council majority voted 4-2 to indefinitely adjourn the special session to back the city attorney and his comments. Vice Mayor Chris Faraldi was absent because he did not want to be part of a conversation revolving around pending litigation in which he is named.

Freedman rejected Helgeson and Misjuns’ characterization during Tuesday’s meeting.

“First, the city is not representing Vice Mayor Faraldi in the pending Alexander v. Faraldi lawsuit,” Freedman said. “Second, Councilmembers Helgeson and Misjuns are not attorneys, are not qualified to speak on legal issues, and are not in charge of the city’s legal affairs. I am.”

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