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New Brighton City Council Member David A. Phillips entered an Alford plea Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court to a misdemeanor charge of engaging in prostitution.
The first-term council member was one of nine men arrested Feb. 25 by St. Paul police in a prostitution sting. He was accused of offering an undercover officer $100 in exchange for "a half an hour of full service," according to court documents.
An Alford plea typically means a defendant acknowledges there is enough evidence to convict him or her of a crime but does not admit guilt.
District Judge John Guthmann stayed imposition of a jail sentence for Phillips and ordered him to pay $78 in court costs, a $250 surcharge and a $500 fine. He will be on probation for one year and must complete "john school" -- a program for people convicted of hiring prostitutes -- remain law-abiding and maintain contact with his probation officer.
If he completes all the conditions of probation, the charge will be dismissed after one year.
Phillips was asked by the judge if he had anything to say.
"No, your honor," Phillips said.
Neither Phillips nor his attorney, Earl Gray, would comment.
According to court documents, Phillips went to the Days Inn on University Avenue in St. Paul to meet an undercover officer he believed was a prostitute. A second officer, monitoring the exchange on a surveillance camera in another room, saw Phillips give the undercover officer $100. A third officer saw Phillips remove his shirt and pants, "at which point the arrest was made," the documents said.
New Brighton Mayor Steve Larson said Wednesday that Phillips can't be fired for a misdemeanor.
"There is nothing we have on the books that requires anything to be done about a misdemeanor," he said. "It's up to the person as to what they can live within their life. If they think it's no big deal, it's up to the citizens three years from now to make a decision. We don't have any way to deal with it."
As for asking Phillips to resign, "He's got the majority vote behind him," Larson said.
Other than the first council meeting after his arrest, Phillips hasn't missed any council meetings, Larson said.
Mary Burg, one of the city's four council members, said she was reluctant to comment on the case.
"I have a lot I'd like to say, but I'm not going to," she said. "I have to serve on the City Council in the best interests of the people of New Brighton, and it's in the best interest that I not make any comment of my personal feelings. I'd love to purge, but it would be improper of me to do so."
Pat Pheifer • 651-298-1551