Regardless of the outcome from all the investigations taking place involving freshman Councilman Tyrone Williams, he needs to resign from the city council and spare our community the embarrassment of a local governmental scandal. The cliché “where there’s smoke there is usually fire” rings true in this bizarre sequence of disturbing circumstances. We agree with former Fayetteville City Councilman Bobby Hurst, who got it right when commenting about Williams’ situation on WFNC’s Morning Show last week when he said, “He’s just lying. And he should step down.”
The overall news coverage of this situation has also been unusually vague and confusing, causing much speculation. This has all the drama and intrigue of a James Patterson novel – municipal suspicion of wrongdoing by a sitting councilman, closed sessions of city council meetings, accusations of potential criminal activity, false claims and accusations directed at city attorney Karen McDonald, the hiring of a high-powered white collar crime criminal defense attorney, the request by other council members for an Ethics Commission investigation, false claims of financial interest in someone else’s business, and now, the involvement of the FBI.
This series of events began several weeks ago when McDonald felt it necessary to hire and bring in an outside attorney to advise the city and potentially protect it from the escalating negative conflict of interest accusations lodged against Councilman Williams regarding PCH, Inc. and the Prince Charles Hotel development project.
To date, no one has come forward to define just what that conflict of interest is. However, when questioned specifically about it, Williams got entangled in his own statements and contradictions, exacerbating the suspicion surrounding this situation and casting even more doubt on his integrity, honesty and intentions regarding the matter.
First, Williams said he had a financial interest in the Prince Charles Hotel. This was not true; PCH Inc. confirms that it had no dealings with Williams and he was in no way associated with the project. Secondly, Williams said he disclosed his interest in the Prince Charles Hotel to the city attorney in February. Again, not true. McDonald denied this adamantly and demanded that Williams correct the record. Then there are the questions resulting from the votes he participated in concerning PCH and the hotel. Why did Williams participate in the voting if both he and the city attorney knew he had a financial interest in the project?
This only raises more questions, like:
What is the actual “dispute” or alleged “conflict of interest” the city is addressing with Williams, and why won’t anyone say?
Why would Williams vote (twice) against a $100 million development project in his own District 2?
It has been mentioned that “they” confronted PCH, Inc. Who are “they”?
Are other people involved with this alleged dispute?
If so, are they involved with the city or in any way in a position to influence city policy?
Does Williams have an attorney, and why hasn’t he lawyered up to defend himself against the allegations?
If he does have an attorney, who make up Williams’ legal team of advisors?
Because of Williams’ past business relationship with former Prince Charles Hotel owner John Chen, does Williams think he has a financial interest in PCH, Inc.?
Does city staff or someone on city council have evidence or suspicions of bribery or of a pay-to-play scheme developing?
There are so many questions causing so much speculation, and all of it negative. Hopefully, by the time you read this article the truth will have emerged, and our community will have the answers it is entitled to.
In the meantime, I am extremely pleased that we have a city attorney like McDonald who is diligent and talented enough to recognize a threatening situation that could be detrimental to our city. She immediately took the proper corrective action to protect the city of Fayetteville, our council members, the reputation of our community and the monumental downtown economic development project that will enhance and redefine Fayetteville’s stature in North Carolina.
We have much at stake here. Most importantly, the residents of Fayetteville must be able to respect, trust and place confidence in their city leaders. Even the slightest hint of impropriety will undermine our growth, development and aspirations for a prosperous future. T
hank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.
Photo: City Cunciman Tyrone Williams