I sat down Monday with embattled Assemblyman Wendell Williams.
Williams has been the subject of withering news accounts that have chronicled a lengthy list of problems. He has been accused of driving on a suspended license, owing $53,000 in back child support, overstating his hours worked as a senior analyst in the city's Neighborhood Services division while serving at the Legislature, making $1,844 in personal calls on his city-issued cell phone, and using his influence to obtain a job at the Community College of Southern Nevada for Topazia "Briget" Jones.
The pay and phone issues led the city to suspend Williams for two weeks, and he admitted the cell use was excessive. But he remains adamant that his problems have been blown out of proportion, thanks to the press, his political enemies and former allies.
Question: Why haven't you been available?
Answer: For one reason: A lot of the information that I find that has been printed is totally wrong and so outlandish that I know that folks don't really want the right answers.
Q: What's missing?
A: I think they're missing almost all of it, and I think it's intentional. I mean, let's start with the child support if we can. This child support came up in 1997. I was divorced from my wife in 1984. ... I paid all of it ($25,000 in back child support and $28,000 in interest.) I paid all of it in 1998.
Q: What about the city pay issue?
A: I don't agree it's the right thing. I agreed to it. I guess the mistake in that one, too, was not talking to any legal people about it. ...
This last legislative session, the city of Las Vegas gave me a number of assignments that they wanted me to work on. ... They asked me to work on these projects. They gave me a list of things to do, and I did them. We documented everything that we did.
Q: Do you feel you owe the city money?
A: Absolutely not.
When these press stories broke, (Neighborhood Services Director) Sharon Segerblom came to me and said, 'Look, the press has requested these time cards. I think the best way to get this whole thing squashed in the press is that we show a reduction in the number of hours that you worked at the Legislature.' That was directions that she got from the eighth floor (the city manager's office.) If everybody thinks that's going to be the best thing to squash this, I'll do it. So what they did is went back and got all the time cards from the Legislature and got blank time cards and redid all of them to reduce the hours by maybe 260 hours. That was like $9,000 or $10,000. But here again, I agreed to do it. They said, well, if you do this, it shows the press these reduced hours, and as far as we're concerned if the press requests anything, it's over. ...
Another interesting point, when I would submit my time cards from the Legislature, if I didn't submit them on a certain date, they would and say, 'Well, we need your signature on your time card.' On many occasions I would submit the time cards, sign them ... they would change them and forge my signature. And we've got those time cards as well.
Q: What about the driving issues?
A: The DMV never notified me of a suspended license. Capital police supposedly told the speaker (Richard Perkins) about it, and the speaker never told me about it. I found out about a suspended license when I bought this car (a BMW convertible) and went to insure it.
Q: Ever have a relationship with Briget Jones?
Q: Did you push college official John Cummings to hire her?
A: I never advocated for her employment. I never asked for her to work at the college. ... John started to recruit her on a number of occasions.
Q: Are you accusing people of covering for Cummings?
A: No doubt. And I have documentation to prove they're covering up for John.
... When I began to question some of the hiring practices and things like that, that's when supposedly I asked the college to give Briget Jones a job. They recruited her.
I came away from the interview believing one thing above all else: If Wendell Williams is forced out of politics, he plans to take some people with him.
John L. Smith's column appears Fridays in the Nevada Appeal. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295.