FRONT ROYAL - In the midst of ongoing court proceedings regarding a misdemeanor count of soliciting prostitution, Mayor Hollis Tharpe announced on Friday that he will resign from office.
Tharpe - whose second mayoral term will expire in 2020 - said over the phone that the resignation, which will become effective May 2, was decided upon with the best interest of the town in mind.
Town Attorney Doug Napier said over the phone that the Town Council can either petition Warren County Circuit Court for a special election to fill Tharpe’s seat or appoint a mayor to fill out the remainder of his term. Napier said the council has 45 days after the resignation to make the decision.
Napier said the council could appoint either a council member or a citizen to serve as interim mayor before the special election takes place.
Although Tharpe said he is not guilty of soliciting prostitution - charges he said stem from two visits to a massage parlor - he does not want the Town Council to be tainted by association with him.
“I don’t want the council to have any unnecessary distractions. I’m doing everything in my power to make sure the council runs smooth as silk,” he said.
Tharpe announced on Monday, the same day that he was indicted in Warren County Circuit Court, that he would take temporary administrative leave until his court proceedings are finished. He said the administrative leave was a "quick fix" to give him time to contemplate what action should be taken. He noted on Friday, however, that the case may take a long time to work its way through the legal system and he does not think the council should have a vacancy for an extended time period.
Tharpe said the decision is necessary in the event that there is a 3-3 tie on a Town Council vote, in which case a mayor would be necessary to serve as a tiebreaker.
He said he would consider in 2020 whether he might run again for office, noting that he may not want to because by that time "social media may be worse."
Tharpe is due June 17 in Warren County Circuit Court.