CANTON — Police confirmed Thursday that Nelson City Councilwoman Edith Portillo, 72, was arrested last Tuesday on shoplifting charges in Canton.
Portillo was taken into custody July 23 after police say she stole several items in June from the Wal-Mart store on Riverstone Parkway, said Pacer Cordry, spokesman for the Canton Police Department.
Portillo said Thursday she is innocent and plans to fight the charges.
“This has been horrendous,” she said. “I didn’t take it.”
According to the police report of the incident, just before 4 p.m. on June 15 “an older female, with fair skin and short gray hair” walked into the store and loaded up with almost $200 worth of merchandise before leaving without paying for the items.
While the woman described to Canton Police by Wal-Mart staff was unknown at the time, Cordry said investigators later determined Portillo was the suspect.
“The detectives used video surveillance to lead to her,” Cordry said.
Cordry said investigators also found that Portillo made a transaction at the store around the time of the theft and that she has the same type of truck driven away from the store, a navy blue Chevrolet Silverado, which was also captured on camera.
According to police records, among the items Portillo is accused of stealing are two solar lights, a canister set, a dish mat and two Lego sets.
When asked about the items Thursday, Portillo said none of them sounded familiar.
Portillo was elected in 2012 in a special election to finish the term of resigned Councilman Larry Sellers. That term expires this year.
Nelson City Attorney Jeff Rusbridge said Thursday that Portillo’s arrest could affect her position on the City Council if she is convicted of the charge against her, which is a misdemeanor.
“A council member could face the possibility of removal from office for a conviction of a misdemeanor,” Rusbridge said, but only “upon the filing of removal action in superior court.”
If that removal action is not filed, Rusbridge said Portillo could remain in her seat on the council.
Nelson City Manager Brandy Edwards said Thursday the city had no comment on the arrest.
Portillo was released from the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center on $800 bond July 23, said Lt. Jay Baker, spokesman for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.
The councilwoman’s arrest makes her the second Cherokee County elected official to be arrested by the Canton Police Department in the last month.
School Board Member Kelly Marlow, who is accused of making false statements that Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo tried to run her over with his car after a school board meeting, was arrested in July. Video surveillance was used in both of the investigations.