How "the shit" ... and we quote ... hit the fan at Shelby County government


In a blistering report to the county attorney’s office, an independent investigator recounts how a high-ranking county official warned Shelby County Assessor Rita Clark he would “ride your butt all the way to reelection” if she didn’t back off on her criticism of his moonlighting business as head of a temporary employee agency.

Calvin Williams, administrator of the Shelby County Commission Office, was described by Clark as being “irate” with her in a phone conversation on November 25th. Williams had tried to get Clark to hire some temporary employees from him but she refused.

The Memphis Flyer obtained a report from the Shelby County Attorney’s Office that details various encounters between Williams and other county employees. The report was compiled by Lee Bowron of Allen & Associates. Bowron is an attorney and former member of the Wyoming Legislature. He was retained by the county to investigate the Williams matter due to what the report calls “the sensitive political environment” in the county building, which has been rocked by revelations of credit card abuse in recent months.

Bowron recorded all of his key interviews except Williams, who insisted that he only take handwritten notes. The transcripts of the interviews are included in the report.

Williams is head of T & T Temporary Services in addition to his full-time job with the commission. Last summer he offered to provide temporary employees to Trustee Bob Patterson and Clark. Patterson accepted the offer; Clark thought it was a conflict of interest and did not accept. She was also concerned because Williams’ company was not on an approved list of county vendors.

Clark told Bowron that Williams contacted her in July or August and asked her to do him a “favor” by using the service. After talking to two fellow employees, Cheyenne Johnson and Patrick Lafferty, Clark decided not to confront Williams but to meet with the county personnel officer, Jim Martin, instead. She said he advised her “as an elected official, I could hire anybody I wanted.”

Things heated up in November when Williams apparently became concerned that Clark or someone in her office had gone to the media with the story. He accused Johnson of being “the shit starter.” He used profanity in the conversation with Clark, which was overheard by Lafferty on a speaker phone. The report makes quite a fuss about Williams’ use of the word “shit” in several instances and his generally threatening tone.

“It was clear to (Clark) that (Williams) expected her to clear up the 'mess’ or else,” says the report.

The “or else” involved allegations that Williams was prepared to make about conflicts of interest in the assessor’s office, where Clark admits using approximately $1 million worth of temporary help during reappraisals.

Williams also told Clark, “I’m the wrong Negro to be messin’ with.”

Williams told Bowron that his boss is whoever happens to be the current chairman of the county commission and that “each chairman can operate under whatever rules he wants.”

The report concludes with this paragraph:

“Whether or not Mr. Williams’ conduct violates the county employee handbook or suggests other public misconduct, official misconduct, or official oppression under Tennessee law is not for this investigator to determine. However, one could hardly review the evidence gathered and not conclude that Mr. Williams wanted Mrs. Clark and her office to either take some affirmative action or cease taking action; one would also likely conclude that Mr. Williams wanted those hearing his voice to clearly understand that there would be consequences for those persons who chose not to comply with his demands.”

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