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

has arrived.