City Attorney Lavonda Graham-Williams

The City Attorney's Office, also known as the City's Law Department, provides a wide range of legal services to the City government. Various members of the office provide legal advice to City Council, the City Manager, and many other City officials. Some of the services provided by the office are as follows:


  • Drafting ordinances and resolutions for consideration by City Council
  • Rendering parliamentary rulings for City Council
  • Defending lawsuits brought against the City and its officials and employees
  • Representing the City in administrative proceedings
  • Providing legal assistance regarding proposed state and federal legislation
  • Providing legal advice to City departments regarding the reduction and prevention of claims, complaints, and Lawsuits against the City and City employees
  • Providing legal services to Boards and Commissions
  • Reviewing and drafting contracts for City departments
  • Handling title searches and real estate transactions for the City
  • Advising and preparing documents for complex development projects and procurement matters
  • Advising on zoning and planning law
  • Providing legal advice and representation regarding housing code, zoning, building and maintenance codes enforcement
  • Providing legal advice and representation to the Department of Social Services regarding child and adult protective Services and foster care
  • Providing legal advice and representation regarding construction issues
  • Advising on HUD grant programs and sub-recipient grants to Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority and other agencies for services for low and median-income families
  • Providing legal counsel to the Portsmouth Economic Development Authority and the Portsmouth Port and Industrial Commission
  • Providing legal advice regarding the Virginia Freedom of Information Act and the Virginia State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act
  • Reviewing Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) license applications and representing the City in ABC Board proceedings

Office Staff 

City Attorney's Office Directory 

The members of the City Attorney's Office are:

  • Lavonda Graham-Williams, City Attorney
  • Jeffrey S. Miller, Deputy City Attorney
  • Derek G. Challenger, Deputy City Attorney
  • Shelia C. Riddick, Assistant City Attorney
  • Burle U. Stromberg, Assistant City Attorney
  • Kelsey L. Swieringa, Assistant City Attorney
  • Johnita Coston, Assistant City Attorney
  • Robert R. Merhige, III, Special Assistant City Attorney
  • Reanita Goodwyn, Senior Paralegal
  • Jennifer Robertson, Paralegal
  • Sarah Kennedy, Paralegal
  • Neriya Ward, Administrative Coordinator I

The City Attorney's Office aims to be guided by the following words of Thomas Jefferson:

"[A]ll that [is] necessary to establish our credit [is] an efficient government and an honest one."