Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Friday, December 30, 2011

Will Robinson-Briggs fire Corporation Counsel Williamson?

Reminiscent of the Red Queen in 'Alice in Wonderland'?
A trip to Plainfield's City Hall is always accompanied by a little rush as one gets plugged into the latest gossip and rumors involving goings-on behind the closed doors of the Mayoral West Wing.

Wednesday, it had to do with Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson.

Seems that Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs was highly annoyed that the report of the Council's Special Counsel Rivera on the WBLS funding investigation revealed that Mr. Williamson had the temerity to state under oath that he (see page 8 of the report here) --

  • NEVER had a conversation with Mayor Robinson-Briggs about the legality of the payment to WBLS;

  • NEVER discussed the event as possibly an 'emergency service';

  • NEVER had any discussion with Mayor Robinson-Briggs before or after the event about payment for it; and

  • NEVER provided any legal advice to Mayor Robinson-Briggs on the expenditure for the WBLS event.
This directly contradicts Her Honor's claim to have spoken to Mr. Williamson (and also to her personal attorney, Lucas Phillips, Jr.) about whether the Town Hall meeting and broadcast qualified as an emergency service (see the Report, page 5, here)

That is something up with which the Mayor will not put, so it is said.

What to do? Fire him, of course.

But the rumors also suggest that Mayor Robinson-Briggs has learned something from the embarrassment she caused herself by firing former City Administrator Bibi Taylor two weeks before she was due to deliver, with the firing to take effect on Christmas Day 2010. That firing was overturned by a unanimous vote of the City Council, which has review and veto power over the firing of cabinet-level appointments (see my post here).

Some are suggesting that Williamson won't be fired outright, but proposed for another assignment (at a lower pay grade?).

The reason this talk is so startling is that there is no member of her cabinet who has more often gone to bat for the Mayor, more often defended her proposals to the Council and the public, or more often put himself in an awkward position taking point for her often loopy and ill-thought-out resolutions.

Why would one throw such a seasoned and loyal counselor under the bus?

Those who have witnessed the foot stamping fits and unladlylike language the public never (or seldom) sees say Her Honor has a stubborn streak a mile wide, and doesn't like being crossed or made to look the liar, as the Report to the Council does.

Forget about putting one's license to make a living at jeopardy -- loyalty to Her Honor is the highest virtue!

All of this puts the 'odd bits' I noticed at the Council's special meeting to set the reorganization agenda in a little different light (see that post here). Was the reason so many standard items were not brought forward at that time due to Her Honor's fit of pique?

Perhaps Mayor Robinson-Briggs will give it some thought and relent, considering that Mr. Williamson knows 'where the bodies are buried', as the saying goes.

At any rate, if it is to happen at all it would become obvious at the Council's reorganization meeting, set for Tuesday, January 3, 8:00PM at the Courthouse/Council Chambers.

A meeting that may hold some interesting moments.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

Hurray for Mr. Williamson testifying even if it contradicted the mayor. I hope no one is made the victim of vindictive office politics, but doesn't such a bold move allow for the chance to retire with dignity? Forgive me if I am indelicate, but isn't Mr. Williamson over 65, or does his job wear on him so that he just looks over 65?

I often wonder what keeps elected officials and counselors involved in government way been normal retirment age. Traditionally, corporate executives retire at 65, union workers at 55, and many laborers at 62 (although times are changing). From the government employers persepctive, is the value of a seasoned official to be found in their knowing the laws, rules and protocals of government (for which you are invaluable, Dan, even though you did retire), or is it in their having shown "loyalty" in the past or knowing where the "bodies" are? Of course, from the employee's persepctive, one might like the work or need the rewards.

But, couldn't people of retirement age simply retire so younger workers can move up? That's a real issue in a low growth economy.

Dan said...

@ 8:46: Hey! Older people have bills to pay, too!

I would hate to think of Mr. Williamson or any retired city employee subsisting on tins of out-of-date cat tuna from some dollar store.

Just as I would hate to see some young whippersnapper lawyer on the make having to make do with part-time work at Wendys or Burger King instead of starting out with a handsome 6-figure salary.

Why is life so complicated?

Joan Van Pelt said...

When the idea of a full time, in house, corporation counsel was proposed, it was thought that he/she would do the bulk of the city's lawyering with a few assistants who handled things like municipal court. It wasn't anticipated that so much work would be farmed out to outside firms. The thought was we could buy legal services for a fixed fee (the counsel's salary and benefits) and it would save money. Maybe we should rethink the full time job, or rewrite the job description. In any event, given the amount of litigation this administration is involved in, this is no job for a newcomer to municipal law.

Bob said...

We all know her honor is the vindictive and immature. I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees the Queen of Hearts comparison with our cartoon like mayor.

I'm glad to see there is some moral character in City Hall. None comes from the mayor's office, so it must come from some place elase.

olddoc said...

What was the cost for legal expenses in 2005 and in 2010? In other words what % of the City's budget goes for the Corporation Counsel's office?