Fights at Memphis City Hall are usually group efforts, factions taking sides of one issue or another.
But sometimes — sometimes — two individuals step from the scrum and face each other in single combat.
Such was the case Tuesday. Michael Williams, president of the Memphis Police Association, was arguing the case to restore city employee health care benefits. During his second trip to the public podium, he claimed he had some information that proved public officials have profited from decisions made by the Memphis City Council.
Council member Bill Boyd didn’t cotton to that notion and invited Williams back to the podium for some questions. Here’s the play by play:
Boyd: Mr. Williams, do you mind returning to the microphone?
Williams: Yes, sir.
Boyd: You ought to be used to it by now.
Williams: I am.
Boyd: Well, I’m really concerned about your statement on your last trip there (to the microphone).
Williams: And I’m concerned.
Boyd: “Some people who have profited by,” I’ve forgotten how you put it, “some decisions made…” Were you talking about people on the council or the (A C Wharton) administration or what?
Williams: I am concerned.
Boyd: About people on the city council, is that what you…
Williams: I definitely have documentation and proof that there have been individuals who have gained from possible positions in this city, yes.
Boyd: I would think as a policeman and a law enforcement person, that you would bring that to the proper authorities.
Williams: It has already been addressed, sir.
Williams: It has already been addressed.
Boyd: You have given it to the proper authorities in writing?
Williams: Well, it has already been addressed.
Boyd: Well, see now you’re sounding like the administration.
(Crowd laughs and claps.)
Williams: Now, I’m not sounding like the administration. I pointed it out to the council and just like councilman (Myron) Lowery had said, well, you can request an audit if you like. I would think that all of the inconsistencies that have been pointed out during this process, someone on the council would have requested an independent audit.
(Crowd cheers and claps.)
Williams: I see what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to put it back in my lap once again but that’s not going to work. It has been addressed.
Boyd: I never put anything back in your lap. But you didn’t even answer my question.
Williams: Yes, I did.
Boyd: You deflected that and I want a direct answer. Here you are making accusations about someone or some group and I’m asking you once again: Are you addressing that, accusing someone on this city council, that works on this council now?
Williams: I’m saying that…
(Indistinct chatter from the crowd to Williams.)
Williams: It’s under investigation. That’s good. I like that.
Boyd: So, you refuse to answer my question?
Williams: Well, I’m not going to point out any individual because I’m not going to make an accusation.
Boyd: I’m trying to find out where the source is. Is it on this council?
Williams: You know what? You can go to the computer and Google it and find sources yourself!
Boyd: The people that profited are on this council?
Williams: You can find it for yourself, sir! Just like I did. It’s public record. It is public record. It’s been pointed out by individuals, not just by me!
Boyd: You sound like Mr. Hawkins (Bill Hawkins, assistant business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1288) of the LG&W…
Williams: No, I sound like Michael Williams of the Memphis Police Association.
(Crowd cheers, applauds, and whistles.)
Williams: Yeah. Can I leave now? Is that O.K.?
Boyd: Sure, I can see you’re not going to answer my questions.
Williams: No, I’m not under an inquisition. Thank you.
Boyd: Then why are you making public statements you can’t answer?
(Crowd murmurs indistinctly.)
Boyd: Under investigation by who?
(Voices from the crowd yell at Boyd.)
Boyd: I’m not worried about one cotton-picking thing because you can look at my house; you can look at my bank account…
(Council chairman Jim Strickland pounds his gavel.)
Strickland: Mr. Boyd. Mr. Boyd.
Boyd: You can see the way I live and have lived.
Strickland: Mr. Boyd.
Boyd: I’m not one of those who has profited by anything up here.
Strickland: Mr. Boyd. Mr. Boyd!
Boyd: In fact, I would like…
Strickland: Mr. Boyd, I don’t think it’s proper to engage in a group discussion.
Boyd: I would like to get to the root of it because I don’t want this council or this city, including all the employees, be accused of anything out in a public venue like this without any proof and I’d like to see the proof and I’d like to get to the bottom of it myself. Mr. Williams, maybe you can, if you don’t want to do it publicly, privately talk to me and I would be glad to help on that. And I welcome an audit, too. Thank you.
Strickland: Thank you.