When Don Williams ran for Mayor of Lincoln City in 2014, we supported his plan to sell the Villages at Cascade Head, create better jobs through an Economic Development team,1 and create more affordable housing by streamlining our Planning Department.2 Voters liked his message too, electing him with 48 percent more votes.3
But after Williams started asking smart questions, like why our City’s 2015 legal budget4 was 360 percent higher than Coos Bay’s,5 a city twice our size,6 our City Council’s response was swift and merciless.
First, Council filed secret ethics charges7 against Williams. But Williams was quickly exonerated in a unanimous 5-0 decision by the Ethics Commission.8
Failing that, Council hired lawyers to dig up dirt on Williams, but found nothing but legal bills totalling $112,121 from the seven law firms they’d hired.9
Failing that, Council then authorized10 City Attorney Richard Appicello to convince the Department of Justice to secretly investigate Williams and his supporters.11 But after a year, the DOJ dropped the case,12 blasting Appicello for failing to produce any of his promised “evidence”13 to back up his six criminal charges.14
Failing that, Council held nine secret executive session meetings,15 over ten months16, where their attorneys17 grilled Williams to coerce him to admit to something, anything, so Council could unseat him, or at least publicly humiliate him. Williams was never provided counsel, and was not even provided the alleged evidence against him, until nine months into the proceedings.18
And today, Council is again alleging Williams violated ethics laws.19 But the facts prove Williams, again, did nothing wrong.20 21
If he had, Council would have certainly filed ethics charges in a heartbeat.
Let’s hope Council has finally learned their lesson, and apologizes, but given their track record, it’s unlikely. Serial harassers need treatment, not given another chance to abuse.
The saddest part is how this discourages anyone from running for office, unless they are willing to toe the party line. Worse, it discourages us all from just speaking up at Council meetings, for fear of our Council’s wrath.
So what can you do? First, don’t give in to fear. And ignore news sources that engage in innuendo, and rumor mongering. Instead, seek out unbiased sources like the Newport News Times, and LincolnCityHomePage.com.
And most importantly, vote wisely next November. Our citizens need you now more than ever.
Ross Smith, Jerry Warner, Doug Wheldon
Editor’s Note: To register to vote, visit the DMV website. To update, or verify your voting information, visit the Secretary of State website.
1 Williams, Don, “Our economic troubles are driving away our younger citizens.” Sept. 27, 2014. link 2 Williams, Don, “A way to affordable housing.” Sept. 9, 2014. link 3 Lincoln County, Oregon, Official Election Results, General Election, Nov. 4, 2014. link 4 City of Lincoln City, 2014-2015 Proposed Budget, 59. link 5 City of Coos Bay, Approved Budget FY 2014/2015, 37. link 6 American FactFinder, United States Census Bureau. link 7 Sprague, Roger, Oregon Government Ethics Commission Complaint, Aug. 19, 2015. link 8 Friedman, Gordon, “Ethics complaint against Lincoln City mayor dismissed.” Statesman Journal, Oct. 28, 2015. link 9 Beasley, Rick, “Probe puts Lincoln City in spotlight.” Newport News Times, May 12, 2017, A1. link 10 Underhill, Dana, Letter to Linn Davis, Oregon State Bar, May 7, 2017, 6. link 11 Shimanek, Jodi, Special Agent, Oregon DOJ, Investigative Report, Dec. 11, 2015, 3. link 12 McCauley, Matthew, Sr. Assistant Attorney General, Oregon DOJ, letter to Lincoln County District Attorney, Michelle Branam, Sept. 28, 2016. link 13 Shimanek, Jodi, Special Agent, Oregon DOJ, Investigative Report, Feb. 17, 2016, 3. link 14 McCauley, Letter to Lincoln County District Attorney, Michelle Branam. link 15 Meeting Calendar, City of Lincoln City. link 17 Meeting attendees included City Attorney Richard Appicello, attorney Russell Poppe, Speer Hoyt, and attorney Ross Williamson, Speer Hoyt. Jens Schmidt, of Harrang, Long, Gary, Rudnick was involved, as well. 19 Jeremy Ruark and Cassie Rudd, “New ethics concerns at city hall.” The News Guard, Nov. 15, 2017. link 20 Williams, Don, “To the People of Lincoln City,” Nov. 21, 2017. link 21 Patrick Alexander, President, Lincoln City Warming Shelter, email to Rick Beasley, Nov. 17, 2017. link