Birmingham City Councilwoman Lashunda Scales accepts plea deal

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Birmingham City Councilwoman Lashunda Scales has pleaded guilty to one count of an ethics violation and one count of interfering with a voter while inside a polling place, Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls said in a statement.

Falls announced a resolution to her criminal charges Thursday afternoon.

According to the statement, Scales was sentenced to one year in jail, but she later applied for probation.

After her application, the court placed Scales on one year of unsupervised probation with no legal constraints and ordered her to pay court costs within 30 days.

The statement released on Thursday indicates that the voting violation charge “involved improper contact between Councilwoman Scales and a voter during the October 2012 City of Birmingham bond referendum at the Sun Valley Elementary School polling place.”

Attorney for Scales, Jim Sturdivant, said the plea agreement involved the reduction or dismissal of all felony charges facing the District 1 Birmingham City Councilor.

Sturdivant said it required her to “plead guilty to 1 misdemeanor reduced charge of the unintended use of public equipment and one charge that is not even classified as a misdemeanor,but is classified below a misdemeanor is what is known as a violation under Alabama Law.”

Scales was warned about improperly contacting voters, but persisted to initiate contact concerning issues on the ballot, according to the D.A.’s office.

In regards to the ethics violation, Falls’ release states that the charge “involved the improper use of city resources in a private venture.”

The ethics violation stems from a situation where city workers and trucks were used to drain a parking lot for a carnival which Scales was hired to promote through her public relations firm, according to the D.A. and court documents.

The contract dictated that she would receive 25 percent of the profit from the carnival at the BJCC and Scales profited over $30,000 as the promoter from the event, according to Falls.

Thursday, Scales said she never intentionally meant to break the law. If she had been convicted of a felony she would have lost her council seat.

It seems she will get to keep it.

Although Scales wasn’t taking questions Thursday she said she was eager to get back to work to do “the work of the people.”
After news of the plea broke Thursday afternoon, Scales thanked her supporters during an emotional press conference:

“To all of the people in District 1 and the City of Birmingham your thoughts, your prayers, your encouragement are taken to heart and they continue to be the fuel that keeps me going and showing up to do the work of the people,” said Lashunda Scales. ”I will continue to work hard to maintain the trust of you the citizens of Birmingham. There may have been times where I was overzealous in trying to get something accomplished, but I have not intentionally engaged in criminal activity for professional or personal gain.”
“I will continue to be a voice for you. You put your trust in me and I will not betray that trust. I look forward to getting back to work, things being back to normal, and continuing to do the work of the people,” said  Scales.

District 1 voters we spoke with had different reactions to the outcome.

“I guess I’m a little shocked about it. She appears to have done some good things for this area and I guess I am a little shocked about it.” said Tony Devaughn, District 1 voter. “I’m not sure I think it probably is with it being something she said was unintentional, I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt on that and you know believe her.”

“I don’t think it’s right. I think you shouldn’t manipulate someone,” said Rodney George, District 1 voter.

Although he originally pursued felony charges against Scales, Falls says he’s satisfied with the outcome. He says he wanted a resolution that would be just, would hold Scales responsible, and would send a message to other political leaders that this type of activity will not be tolerated.

Copyright 2013 WIAT-TV CBS 42

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