OUR VIEW: Leaders must stay focused on business at hand
Published 12:00 am Friday, February 9, 2007
Without a doubt, the news of Mayor Cecil Williamson’s indictments on
felony theft charges will dominate the city landscape for the near
future. The simple appearance of impropriety will damage her ability
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to lead, the council’s ability to govern and the city’s image as a
whole. The entire ordeal is most unfortunate.
That said, we have some interesting dynamics at work here.
The council unanimously decided to have the district attorney seek
the indictments. That means solid support exists for this action &045;
however regrettable some members say it is.
At the same time, when a municipal audit of city finances for the
fiscal year ending in 2005 revealed the insurance payments by the
city on behalf of the mayor, she never denied having the benefits.
She has said repeatedly that she was unaware that she was not to
receive health benefits and that it was simply a misunderstanding. To
that end, she paid back the money in full.
The Ethics Commission, a state agency charged with investigating
alleged improprieties by elected officials, said the repayment was
enough and that no further investigation was needed.
At the same time, the district attorney is well within his rights to
investigate the alleged wrongdoing and seek any applicable
indictments he deems necessary. In this case, he has done just that.
The reaction to the indictments is varied. Some say the evidence
supports claims that she knew she was not to have insurance, that she
knowingly stole and that paying it back doesn’t make it right.
Others say that a state agency has already cleared her of wrongdoing
and that the indictments are nothing more than a political witch hunt.
We feel there is compelling evidence that the mayor did in fact know
the city had denied her health insurance. City records show she was
present at at least one meeting where the matter was discussed and
the request for insurance denied.
That said, we are not judge and jury. In due time, the legal system
will take its course, and this case will be decided in the proper
Until then, city leaders must do all they can to keep the focus on
city business and not on these indictments. To their credit, each of
the board members we have talked with said they are ready to work
with Williamson as they move forward.
For the mayor’s part, she has the hardest decision to make. If her
entanglement in this legal proceeding becomes too distracting for her
to be effective, the prudent course of action would be to consider a
temporary leave of absence. At this point, we are not sure that time