Fayetteville City Council: Self interest or effective representation?

This entry was contributed by on April 19th, 2018 at 9:01 am and is filed under , , .
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Fayetteville has a couple of large projects planned and moving forward mostly in District 2 for the downtown revitalization. In particular, the city plans to develop a baseball stadium to house a minor league team associated with the Houston Astros. Additionally, the seven-story, dilapidated, eyesore, The Prince Charles Hotel, has been purchased and is being restored.

Several years ago The Prince Charles Hotel was purchased and was being rehabilitated by John Chen, a New York investor. Chen had begun restoration efforts and was at odds with the City of Fayetteville over some vinyl windows he installed on the historic building. Long story short he declared bankruptcy, and the building was purchased by a holding company (Prince Charles Holding) who is now in the process of restoration.
City Councilman Tyrone Williams loaned Chen $100,000 for repairs to the building that were subsequently discharged in the bankruptcy. The details of what transpired next are still rather unclear. We don’t know whom contacted whom, but we do know Williams felt he still somehow had a lien on the property, specifically a “cloud on the title.”
Williams began recusing himself from votes involving the hotel and revitalization efforts in his district causing confusion. It wasn’t long after that news broke of an FBI investigation, an audio recording of Williams asking for $15,000 to take care of the issue, and an attempted sting operation by the FBI.
Williams lawyered up quick, with a personal attorney and city attorney operating on tax payer dollars. This has sparked widespread controversy in his district and across the city calling for his resignation. In the last City Council meeting during the public comment section, District 2 residents asked for his resignation and Jordan Jones of The Prince Charles Holding Company revealed he was in contact with Williams under the supervision and direction of the FBI.
The crucifixion of Williams continued when all of his colleagues spoke asking Williams to resign and subsequently voting that he should, but they can’t make him. So he didn’t.
As a Fayetteville resident, I am horrified, but as a former political strategist, I am fascinated. He’s lost public support, he’s lost the respect of his peers, and he’s recusing himself from big votes that directly impact his district. On the other hand, there are no formal charges, he hasn’t been arrested for anything and we don’t even know if the FBI has concluded their investigation. So maybe he thinks he can beat it and somehow bounce back in under 2 years before the next election.
The fact remains, District 2 needs representation now and any elected official has a duty to at least cast a vote. If you find yourself representing people and are presented with conflicts of interest at the same time, what’s the point of remaining in office?
Right or wrong, guilty or innocent, that District 2 seat is reserved for a District 2 representative. If you can’t represent it is time to get up, go home and allow someone to be the voice for District 2.

3 Responses to “Fayetteville City Council: Self interest or effective representation?”

  1. John Stephens

    Michelle – How should city council members consider public input about whether to resign? Since this situation seems especially “political,” it is likely that the opponents of the council member would speak up, but they are already aligned with different political positions and candidates.

    Is there a reasonable way to determine the “true opinion” of Mr. Williams’ constituents? You write, “He’s lost public support…” but also that there are “no formal charges, he hasn’t been arrested for anything.”

    Is there a danger for council members to be pushed out of office when the potential wrongdoing may not be illegal? And, as has happened in other political situations, the voters may ultimately forgive and support the currently sullied office holder?

    Reply
    • Michelle

      My assertion that he’d lost public support was based on the gnarly public comment section where various district 2 residents came to lay into Williams. Also, what I’m seeing on social media threads. Point taken though. I think social media, Facebook in particular are now offering deeper metrics. My perception is, based on literally no one stepping up to defend him and the NAACP stayed home too, which to me would indicate lack of confidence.
      To answer your other questions, yes that is a danger. The media can and has been judge, jury, and executioner, but in this case, there was no real plausible defense. We didn’t hear much from him during the process, which bred hardcore confusion. Most politicians try to get ahead of something like this, or at very least offer some viable alternative. In this case he did nothing to quell, so with the regard to your forgiveness question. No, I don’t believe anyone is feeling particularly magnanimous.

      Reply
  2. John Stephens

    Update on Councilman Williams: it is reported that on May 3rd, he resigned his office. An excerpt: “I don’t do this lightly, as I have been committed to providing a voice for those who often get shut out of the conversation in City government,” Williams wrote in his three-page resignation letter. “But the people of District 2 deserve someone who can speak without being obscured by negative perceptions.” Source: https://www.wral.com/fayetteville-council-adopts-rules-to-begin-forcing-member-out-/17528337/

    Reply

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