It began innocently enough in November of last year. Political newcomer Tyrone Williams was elected to an open District 2 Fayetteville City Council seat. He placed first in a crowded field of 10 candidates to replace councilman Kirk deViere, who decided to run for state senate rather than seek re-election.
A few weeks after his election, Williams and his campaign manager, T.J. Jenkins, met with downtown Fayetteville commercial developer Jordan Jones. Jenkins had arranged the meeting with Jones, indicating there was an apparent problem with the legal title to the former Prince Charles Hotel, which Jenkins indicated Williams could clear up.
The firm, in which Jones is an investor, had purchased the building in bankruptcy for $200,000. Jones became suspicious, and that may be when the FBI’s Public Corruption unit was called in by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina. It isn’t known if any indictments will come out of the federal investigation.
“I know that my meeting with Mr. Jordan Jones of Prince Charles Holdings, LLC, in December 2017, has caused turmoil for the city,” Williams said in a lengthy statement issued when he resigned.
“It’s unfortunate that things worked out the way they did; the people of District 2 just didn’t know him,” former Cumberland County Commissioner Billy R. King said of Williams. According to published reports, Williams has a checkered past when it comes to business dealings. And he lied when he said publicly that he had a financial interest in PCH Holdings, the firm restoring the Prince Charles.
Jones’ firm had conducted a title search and found the iconic eight-story Hay Street building is clear of any issues. A title search is performed primarily to answer three questions regarding a property on the market: Does the seller have a saleable and marketable interest in the property? What kind of restrictions or allowances pertain to the use of the land? These include real covenants, easements and other equitable servitudes. Do any liens exist on the property that need to be paid off at closing?
A title search is also performed when an owner wishes to mortgage property and the bank requires the owner to insure the transaction. Jones’ firm acquired two bank loans totaling $13 million to pay for the renovation of the building. He told Up & Coming Weekly that interior restoration of the 90-year-old structure is on schedule. It will be followed by about five months of work to restore the historical facade. Jones hopes to have 61 apartments available by the end of this year.
Some plans for the former eight-story ballroom have changed. A posh, high-end apartment was planned originally, but Jones said it didn’t appear the market would support a $3,000 monthly rental fee. So, it will be converted into an office. At least two restaurants, a coffee shop and a couple small retail stores will occupy the first floor. Jones’ greatgrandfather built the hotel in 1924.
After resisting demands from his city council colleagues to resign, as well as a legal procedure to remove him from office, Williams finally caved and stepped down early this month.
What about Jenkins? Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin asked him to resign his position on a city council advisory committee. Entrepreneur Wilson Lacy said Jenkins was removed from his recently acquired post as president of the Fayetteville Business and Professional League.
Williams’ resignation brought relief for city council and was accepted. “If you’re an elected official, you ought to understand the importance of avoiding ethical lapses and the perceptions most likely to accompany secret meetings asking for money if you expect to be successful in the political arena,” said civic leader Troy Williams.
Fayetteville Observer columnist Myron Pitts said of Williams, “He lied to his council colleagues about having a financial interest in the current Prince Charles project, forcing the council to retake some key votes on the stadium and the other projects. He also lied about informing the mayor and city attorney about his alleged conflict of interest in February.”
Five people interested in being appointed to fill the District 2 position recently attended a meeting at Second Missionary Baptist Church on Old Wilmington Road. Patricia Bradley, Len Brown, Sharon Moyer, Paul Taylor and Dan Culliton asked the more than 100 people in attendance to support them. Several others spoke, some of them in support of the interested candidates. Others who filed to seek the District 2 seat were Vernell Cruz, Mary “Bunny” English, William Gothard, George Mitchell and George Turner.
Two-term Cumberland County Commissioner Charles Evans organized the public meeting and was joined by Mayor Colvin, who served as master of ceremonies. Evans once served as District 2 councilman and has since become one of the community’s influential political figures. In addition to Evans, immediate past District 2 council member deViere and former council member Mabel Smith were in attendance. Williams was not mentioned at all during the hourlong meeting.
District 2 is the largest and most racially diverse of the city’s nine districts. It encompasses the downtown area, much of the impoverished inner-city residential areas and a portion of Haymount Hill.
The application process to succeed Williams has ended, and now it’s up to city council. Each applicant will address city council at a meeting on May 29. Council will hold a hearing to take citizen input June 5. They’ll make their decision June 11 and will install the new member June 25.
The city of Fayetteville’s next fiscal year will begin July 1 with a new governing body and fresh hopes for a better community.