November 6, 1997 in Nation/World

Williams’ Calls In Question Engineering Director Spent At Least 29 Hours On The Phone With Woman Doing Incinerator Study

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tags:ethics

Copyright 1997, The Spokesman-Review

City Engineering Director Phil Williams has made at least 29 hours of personal calls from City Hall since August 1996 to a scientist studying Spokane’s trash incinerator - a woman with whom he has admitted having an affair.

Williams continued making dozens of long-distance calls from his office to Kathryn Kelly’s Nevada home after City Manager Bill Pupo ordered him last fall to stay away from Kelly’s work on the state-funded study.

The calls ranged from less than a minute to a marathon 238 minutes last November, Williams’ phone logs show.

The Spokesman-Review requested the records in mid-October as part of its inquiry into whether Williams may have compromised the $300,000 study by his relationship with Kelly.

Within a day of providing the phone logs to the newspaper, city officials were discussing firing Williams.

“Bill Pupo told us Monday that Phil is going to be fired. Everyone has to be accountable,” said city Councilwoman Cherie Rodgers.

Pupo told the council he’d be deciding Williams’ fate this week, Rodgers said.

The council is looking to Pupo to make a quick decision, said Councilwoman Phyllis Holmes.

“I have every confidence that Bill’s going to do the right thing - and the sooner the better,” Holmes said Wednesday.

Pupo declined Wednesday to say how fast he’ll act. “Phil Williams has not resigned. Until the matter is resolved, I can’t comment on the situation,” Pupo said.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Williams refused to comment on his telephone calls. He called the newspaper stories on his involvement with Kelly “silly.”

He was placed on paid leave on Oct. 23, the same day the newspaper published a story about his relationship with Kelly and the problems it could pose for the incinerator study.

Williams is an “at-will” employee and can be fired from his $82,970 job at any time.

Williams didn’t heed Pupo’s directive to keep an “arm’s length” distance from Kelly, who has been under contract to the city for the study since May 1990, records show. The study, looking at the human health and environmental impacts of the trash plant, was supposed to be finished in 1995 and is two years overdue.

Williams has been Kelly’s supervisor on the incinerator project in the city’s solid waste and engineering and planning services departments.

His calls were placed from the city engineer’s office to Kelly in Crystal Bay, Nev., where she moved last year from Seattle.

The 29-hour, 4-minute total excludes Williams’ October 1996 phone records, which are missing from City Hall files. It also doesn’t include hundreds of minutes of calls to her on his city-provided cellular phone.

Williams often would call Kelly several times a day. For instance, on Dec. 8, he called her from his City Hall office four times: At 11:03 a.m. for 20 minutes; for less than a minute at 11:26 a.m.; at 3:29 p.m. for 4 minutes; and at 11:15 p.m. for 27 minutes.

Williams was allowed to go through his records each month and decide which calls were personal - then reimburse the city, said Deputy City Manager Peter Fortin.

“He essentially decided all calls to her (Kelly) were personal,” Fortin said.

Last November, a month after Pupo told him to abandon his involvement with Kelly’s work, Williams spent nearly 10 hours on his office phone with Kelly. His calls to her represented 67 percent of his $188 long-distance phone bill that month.

Also in November, Williams’ wife, Nancy Konn, filed for divorce, naming Kelly in court documents as the woman who broke up their marriage.

In December, nearly all of Williams’ long-distance calls - 221 of 224 minutes - were made to Kelly.

The pattern continued this year.

Williams spent 68 percent of his $87 long-distance telephone bill for the entire month of January - 313 of 459 minutes - on the phone with Kelly.

When Williams was placed on leave, Pupo put Fortin in charge of an internal investigation of Williams’ conduct. That investigation is expected to conclude next week, Fortin said Wednesday.

But Williams didn’t stay quietly on leave while the city conducted its investigation.

Last Friday, he went on talk radio and blasted the newspaper and his critics, including Rodgers, who’d called for his resignation for compromising the incinerator study.

Williams told KXLY radio he was “disappointed” in Rodgers’ call for him to be fired.

“It’s that time of year, with rhetoric flying around,” Williams said. He also mentioned the newspaper’s request for his phone records on the air.

“I did make personal phone calls at work - and I paid for them … I have absolutely nothing to hide,” he said.

Williams also challenged Pupo’s assertion that he’d ordered Williams to keep away from the incinerator study last fall.

Williams said Pupo only told him to stay away from the financial side of the project, not from working with Kelly, Williams said in an interview.

That’s wrong, Pupo said Wednesday. He clearly told Williams to stay away from the entire project, and Williams’ remarks on talk radio made him angry, he said.

Williams continued to work closely with Kelly on the study this year.

He presented a paper on the incinerator study in May at a conference in Oakland that Kelly also attended. She was paid $3,100 for the conference paper from the state grant account at City Hall, records show.

The state Department of Ecology won’t reimburse Spokane for the payment to Kelly. Ecology grants manager Diane Singer Christel called the paper co-authored by Williams and Kelly “self-promoting.”

When the city responded last Friday to the newspaper’s request for Williams’ travel records, all the calls Williams had made from City Hall but deemed “personal” were blacked out.

City officials finally provided the uncensored records Wednesday - after a protest from the newspaper and its attorney that the deletions violated the state’s Open Records Act.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo


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