Mayor Johnson resigns from TowneBank board

Published 9:03 pm Thursday, November 13, 2014

Mayor Linda T. Johnson has resigned her position on the TowneBank Board of Directors following media allegations against the Virginia Beach mayor regarding conflicts of interest.

There are no allegations against Johnson, who serves on the Portsmouth/Suffolk community board, but she said Thursday that she made the decision because of the perception.

“It’s something I gave careful consideration to,” Johnson said, noting she has always reviewed decisions coming before council for conflicts and recused herself from one vote because of a TowneBank conflict. “Just in the interest of perception, I don’t need to do that. It’s really about our city.”

Email newsletter signup

The decision comes less than a week after the Virginian-Pilot published an investigative story about Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, who is president and chief executive officer of Towne Financial Services Group. The story alleged Sessoms has voted on numerous matters that directly benefited developers who borrowed money from the bank.

Sessoms has since been put on paid leave from the bank, according to the Pilot.

In her resignation letter, Johnson wrote, “it is clear my responsibilities on this board had no part in setting policy or making financial decisions for the bank.”

Johnson said she’s comfortable with the decision and that serving on the board was “a community service thing.”

“It’s the best thing to do,” she said, adding that TowneBank is a good corporate citizen and that she believes the bank will continue to do good work in Suffolk.

Councilman-elect Don Goldberg is on TowneBank’s Chesapeake community board and said Thursday he has been weighing a decision on his future with the board.

“I’ll have to think on that a little bit before I make that move,” he said, adding he still has a month and a half to consider it before he is sworn in.

Johnson’s resignation was announced in a press release from the bank that also said Mayor Paul Fraim of Norfolk has resigned his seat on the bank’s Hampton Roads corporate board and Norfolk community board.

“The unfortunate events of the past week concerning city council actions in the City of Virginia Beach have led us to reassess the perception of our local mayors serving as members of our various boards,” the press release stated. “After reflection and out of an abundance of caution, Mayor Fraim and Mayor Johnson have agreed to resign from their Towne board positions, effective today. Importantly, this action has been taken to eliminate any perception of a conflict of interest and is not suggestive that any conflict exists.

“The Towne family would like to thank both of them for their years of service in helping us meet the needs of their respective cities. To each of them, we pledge to continue our unwavering support to be a community asset in the Norfolk and Suffolk communities.”