FRONT ROYAL – About an hour before being indicted on a misdemeanor count of soliciting prostitution, Mayor Hollis Tharpe on Monday announced that he is taking a temporary administrative leave from mayoral duties.
Tharpe, 67, said over the phone Saturday that the allegations have “no merit,” are “unfounded” and that he is innocent of the crime Warren County Circuit Court records state occurred May 31. Soliciting prostitution is a class one misdemeanor punishable by a maximum 12-month sentence and a maximum $2,500 fine.
Tharpe said in a written statement that he is “voluntarily and temporarily” placing himself on administrative leave without pay, which amounts to $700 per month.
Vice Mayor William Sealock will serve as acting mayor.
Tharpe stated he will resume mayoral duties as if he had never placed himself on administrative leave upon the resolution of court proceedings.
He said over the phone Monday that although he is innocent, the decision to temporarily step down is in the best interest of the town. He added that no one forced him to go on leave, and “this is my decision because this is my black cloud.”
Tharpe said his administrative leave is needed to keep that cloud away from the council, town employees and the public.
In September, Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden recused himself from an investigation into Tharpe, and the matter was taken over by Winchester Commonwealth’s Attorney Marc Abrams.
Corrine Geller, Virginia State Police public relations director, stated in a news release Monday that the state police initiated its investigation in October “at the direction of the of the Office of the Attorney General.” She added that the incident remains under investigation.
Upon learning of the investigation in September, Tharpe said no criminal activity had taken place in his past or will take place in his future.
“I’m gonna face the public but I’m gonna face it head-on like when I started getting the investigation. It’s going to be unfounded. It’s not true and I don’t know how else to say about it,” Tharpe said.
Although he proclaimed innocence, Tharpe said Monday he expected the grand jury to hand up an indictment against him. Having served on two grand juries, he said jurors always “rubber stamp” whatever charges prosecutors seek.
Geller stated in the release that Tharpe was released on his own recognizance after appearing Monday in circuit court.