Amherst town council votes to expel fellow elected member

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AMHERST, Va. (WDBJ7) An elected body in one part of our region has taken the unusual step of forcing one of its colleagues out of office.

Amherst Town Council voted 4 to 1 Wednesday to expel council member Janice Wheaton. A reason for the action was not given.

Wheaton was elected to town council last November. When reached her by phone Friday morning, she declined to comment.

Amherst Town Council has a provision in its charter that allows members of the elected body to be expelled by a two-thirds majority.

An interim council member will be appointed to occupy Wheaton's seat until a special election can be held to fill the vacancy in November.

Amherst Town Manager Sara Carter shared the following statement with WDBJ7, regarding Wheaton's expulsion:

"The Town Council, acting as a body, made a difficult decision to expel one of its members this week. This decision was not made lightly, or quickly, or without understanding of how serious and difficult this would be. While we understand the confusion and concern on the part of voters, and the desire for an explanation, one cannot be offered. To do so would violate the requirements of the closed session and the Code of Ethics of the Council. Furthermore, while transparency is of the utmost importance, Council wishes to speak only in ways that promote the common public interest of our beautiful town. The action that was taken was properly performed, according to Town Charter. As Councilors in Town are elected at-large, rather than by district, all voters are still represented. The Town Council will continue to work on the business of the Town and seating a full Council as soon as possible."