Thursday, October 20, 2005

You See? I Told You: Calvin Williams Department

I blogged about this just a couple of weeks ago. (And here.) Calvin Williams, facing trial and jail for abuse of office and other malfeasance while working with the County Commission and the Juvenile Court Clerk's office, began last summer to tout (or pimp, take your pick) his "tell all" book about Shelby County politics. He promised to name names, dig dirt and just generally expose everything and everyone. More on this via John Branston here.

The book was shown on television news shows, who couldn't get enough and were positively breathless with anticipation and salaciousness. Promised for late September, it has yet to be released. As I told you then, I didn't think it would ever see the light of day. Calvin was just trying to get some juice for himself, to save himself from jail time.

It didn't work, apparently. Williams faces two additional counts of bribery/extortion, on top of his earlier indictments from the State of Tennessee. You'll remember that Williams was saved at the last minute -- literally the morning of the trial -- when the State hinted at deals made; the sentencing was delayed. Branston's story claims that prosecutors asked for the delay because they thought no jury would convict for criminality.

The thinking then was that Williams and the others had agreed to help the State in other investigations. They would give up everything they were asked and would get much reduced sentences or changed indictments.

Is this Federal indictment part of that behind-doors deal? Or is it something else? I can't help but suspect William's too-eager touting of his tell-all book got him squashed by folks who had the power to suppress him, folks worried about what he might say if his book went forward. Again, though, I don't think he ever intended to really release that book, and now it's backfired on him. I don't think we'll ever see the book.

Some interesting stuff in the Commercial-Appeal story, too. Let's look at it:
Williams, 43, already under state indictment, didn't return a reporter's calls Wednesday afternoon.
That means that the subject was at work or out when the frantic "call me back" call came in after lunch. The reporter had a 5PM deadline to make and the subject wasn't able to return the call in time. Sheesh....
Williams joins a spate of current or former local public officials charged this year with corruption.

Four Shelby County defendants, including former state senator John Ford, were charged in May in the FBI's Tennessee Waltz undercover bribery sting. In August, County Commissioner Michael Hooks was accused of taking $24,000 in bribes in that sting.

While the charges against Williams closely mirror those in the Waltz cases, officials won't say if they're connected, and nothing in the indictment links the cases.
I have two theories on this passage. One: the paper wants to create the connection for readers, but can't for some reason explicitly make it. Maybe they have heard things not public yet, or have non-certified evidence of some kind. So, the circumlocution. Or two: there is no connection, but the paper wants to make one anyway in the readers' minds. Why? Who can say. Maybe there is someone else's agenda being served here?
For nearly five years Williams was the 13-member commission's chief of staff, yet his deal-brokering and behind-the-scenes maneuvering led some to call him "the 14th commissioner...."

But he became much more -- vote counter, lobbyist and confidant.

He was the go-to man for behind-the-scenes commission deals, and outside work, he helped commissioners get last-minute tickets to sporting events, concerts or help with travel.
Nice to learn all this now, years later. Who is performing that function for the Commission today? There are still a lot of the folks who were serving then serving now. Are we to believe their behavior has changed? Or that new members aren't falling under their sway? The paper knows -- of that I'm sure -- but you rarely ever see it in their pages. Blake Fontenay's old CA blog used to sometimes lift the curtain, though always in a "go along" friendly way. The Memphis Flyer's John Branston also surely knows, but he's mum.

I had once hoped this blog might serve as the bridge between those "in the know" and the rest of us. You would (and still do) see news stories that said something like, "Rumors had circulated in downtown circles for months." or "Political insiders had long known...." In conversations with newspeople, I would often hear outrageous stories that never made print or pixel. "Everyone knew" was the refrain. I had hoped to help the average Memphian get linked into that network, but it hasn't happened. Even in the Internet age, you are still excluded from information that "everyone knows."
In 2003, a state grand jury indicted Williams, former Juvenile Court clerk Shep Wilbun and a third man in a scheme to funnel hush money to a woman harassed by Williams's friend, former county employee Darrell Catron.
Hmmm.... Who is that masked man, you ask? It was Jim Sellers. Would that be this new member of the Memphis Racquet Club, who is also the Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer of LEDIC Management Group, the Memphis apartment renter? (See number 42.) Still more here. If it's him, no wonder his name was left off! The CA is loathe to go after the developer community.
Williams and Wilbun were to face trial last May, but prosecutors halted at the last minute. Those charges are expected to be dismissed next month.
Did I miss this story? Or was it not reported?

Speaking of not reported, notice there is no mention whatsoever in the article of William's book nor his PR efforts in its behalf. Even though the CA itself reported that story, too.

And the big capper:
Williams took a $73,000 pay cut and returned as a staff member in the county's Equal Opportunity Compliance office, where he still works.
That's right! In spite of all his troubles with the law and abuse of office and all that, he's still an employee of the Shelby County government!

Isn't government great?

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