Tense moments at the Lincoln City City Council last evening over details on establishing a homeless shelter at old Taft Fire Hall
A couple of Lincoln City City Councilors attempted to call Mayor Don Williams out on the carpet Monday night over the fact that city grant money to help a local homeless shelter group wound up in the mayor’s pocket. Mayor Williams acquired the grant money through a group called the Lincoln City Warming Shelter which took the money from the city, gave some of it to the mayor and moved in to the old Taft Fire Hall which the mayor owns and is now a warming shelter.
City Councilor Diana Hinton said she is not faulting those who want to establish a warming shelter at the old fire hall, but rather that the mayor was on a three member committee charged with recommending which groups should get city grant money to address the city’s homeless crisis. Hinton said “I’m not blaming the Lincoln City Warming Shelter group. I think we need to clear the air over the fact that the city awarded the grant – and some of that grant money went to the owner of the fire hall – Mayor Williams.” Hinton continued, “City Councilors are not supposed to benefit financially by being a city councilor,” and she also mentioned that the story has been all over Facebook.
Mayor Williams downplayed the significance of the circumstances saying that “The money was awarded and the opportunity came along…it was just timing. We need to spend less time on Facebook and actually talk to people who know what’s going on.”
But that prompted City Councilor Kip Ward to say…”Regarding the elephant in the room – is that the money went from the city to you (Williams). I think it’s at least a conflict of interest. And it should have been addressed at both the council and among your 3-member committee (that recommended which groups got the money). I think at some point, sooner or later, we’re going to have to address that. It should be addressed. People should be confident that their tax money is being spent well and that we should be trustworthy – and something like this has the potential to splash mud on all of us (the council). I’m not out for anyone’s hide. But I am out for transparency so folks know what’s going on.”
And with that, Mayor Williams grabbed his gavel, said his usual “May God bless you all and may God bless Lincoln City” and he hammered the gavel – meeting adjourned.