Council Members Rebuke Mayor Over Proposed Appointee’s Perceived Conflicts of Interest

On August 20th, John Hieftje announced his intention to appoint Albert McWilliams to replace Newcombe Clark on the Board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. McWilliams, who works for Quack Media, is in his 30s. He’s a self-styled joker, whose frontal lobe is ever-so-close to being fully developed. In proposing the appointment, Hieftje told Council members: “He’s on Main Street. I heard good reviews of him down there. He’s also another entrepreneur and someone who has a cutting-edge business. He wants to make downtown a place that can attract the talented people he needs to run his business.” McWilliams (pictured below), Hieftje said, cares deeply about Ann Arbor. Deeply. As in Butt Chasm deep or maybe as in Deep Throat Deep? McWilliams has his own website, and a trip to it is to realize that Al McW cares deeply about tits and ass, and exudes just that flavor of self-important condescension which has made the DDA Board a hot bed of arrogance and a PR bad news buffet.

On September 3, under intense pressure by Ward 3 Council member Stephen Kunselman, Ward 1 Council member Sumi Kailasapathy, and Ward 2 Council member Sally Hart Petersen, Hieftje withdrew the appointment of Albert McWilliams. The Council members were concerned that McWilliams’s company does business with the AAATA. As the DDA gives money to the AAATA, it was suggested that McWilliams’ appointment could be a conflict of interest.

Be that as it may, there was a more serious problem with Albert McWilliams’s proposed appointment: his public statements, and his writing suggest the self-appointed “Master of the Universe”  is more concerned about his hair than about public policy. Albert McWilliams on the Board of the DDA? To quote Quack Media’s website: WTF?

On his personal website in August 2013, McWilliams pleads with Ward 3 and Ward 4 voters to “make sure that person elected represents you and not the 200 crazy people with nothing better to do than live in your ward.” He points out that “The current 3rd ward incumbent (Stephen Kunselman) was elected in 2011 with 637 votes. You need more people to start a viable space colony, or throw a raging Bar Mitzvah.” What Shegetz (שייגעץ) McWilliams means, of course is a Groyse (גרױסע) Bar Mitzvah. We have Raging Bulls. Raging Hard ons. Raging Waters. Raging Hormones. DDA Board members with raging superiority complexes, and the Groyse Bar Mitzvah where Bubbe and Zayde get all verklempt.

Council member Kunselman made McWilliams’s Twitter feed, as well:


Albert McWilliams cares deeply about Ann Arbor politics. In a November 2012 short entry, he writes: “I had a bitch of a time finding out whether we had a new library, parks/arts were funded or not, who our supreme court judges are and most importantly whether Admiral Ackbar made a dent in the Ward 1 city council race.” Admiral Ackbar, a character from Star Wars, is a commander in the Rebel Alliance. McWilliams goes on to write: “Just because they run unopposed, doesn’t mean you have to vote for someone you don’t want to.” To drive home the point, he posted a photo of his ballot.


Al McWilliams riffs on pedestrian safety in a November 2011 blog entry. He posted a clever little piece titled: “Smart folks in Ann Arbor crash their cars into stuff, blame City Council.” It’s a particularly prescient piece of writing considering that some of the “stuff” the smart folks in Ann Arbor crashed into were people, one of whom recently died. His entry begins:

Awhile back Ann Arbor City Council passed a “motorists must stop for pedestrians in crosswalk” law. No big deal right. It’s already a state law, and nearly every pedestrian-heavy downtown in Southeast Michigan has an enhanced enforcement of that law in some way.

Well, it is a big deal apparently.

First, let me say that I don’t care which way this particular ordinance goes. Why? Because it’s not a big deal. I’ve been hit by cars, a lot, and I still don’t think it’s a big deal. The problem is why people are freaking out about it – and yes, they are losing their minds.

Ann Arbor Dot Com (it’s our “newspaper”) has been following the controversy and people are outraged at the increased number of rear-end accidents due to cars stopped for pedestrians. As in, people are super pissed at City Council because they crashed their car into something. These are adults, mind you.

Yes, Albert McWilliams cares deeply, but perhaps not really about the opinions of others. According to @AlMcAlMcAl:

From this one Tweet alone, it’s evident why Hieftje might think McWilliams an excellent addition to the DDA Board of Directors. After all, as an unelected Shadow Government, Ann Arbor’s DDA Board members have shown time and again they have little use for the opinions of the public.

After being peppered with questions and concerns about McWilliams’s proposed appointment, and perhaps horrified at the prospect of having multiple Council members vote against McWilliams’s appointment, Hieftje asked to withdraw the nomination, so that “some of the issues that have been raised can be explored.” The real issue that needs to be explored, obviously, is how Albert McWilliams was selected for nomination by Hieftje in the first place. While no one should be judged wholly by what they write to their personal websites or Twitter accounts, Albert McWilliams, as an advertising professional, should understand that one’s brand is supposed to be burnished not tarnished by one’s public persona. Making jokes about bodily functions, posting pictures to his website of women with huge breasts and of women in tight pants bending, makes him a typical 30-year-old man-boy. Trashing Council members online, and then expecting those people to support his appointment makes him look like a political pumpkin head.

It’s no crime to be immature or with being a political pumpkin head. We just don’t need those people on our city’s boards and commissions, particularly on boards and commissions that control multi-million dollar budgets. Will McWilliams’s nomination come back? Let’s hope not. If so, it will certainly be before November, when Ward 4 Council member-elect Jack Eaton takes office. Eaton, in his victory speech, stressed the need for an ethics policy for City Council members and, one imagines, would be sensitive to perceived conflicts such as the one his future colleagues pointed out about McWilliams.

In the meantime, here’s a final bit of sage advice from John Hieftje’s proposed candidate for the Board of the DDA. In this Sweet Tweet, Ward 1 resident McWilliams urges Ann Arbor residents to vote in the November 2012 general election. DDA Board-member-gone-quiet Joan Lowenstein couldn’t have said it better. While A2Politico urges voters in Wards 1 and 2 to get to the polls this November, we’ll also encourage those inclined to follow McWilliams’s advice to buy their ice cream cones from  the Washtenaw Dairy.


Short URL: http://www.a2politico.com/?p=15312

24 Comments for “Council Members Rebuke Mayor Over Proposed Appointee’s Perceived Conflicts of Interest”

  1. […] appointee Albert McWilliams was, once again, the point of contention. At the September 3rd meeting, McWilliams’s proposed appointment was met with stiff resistance  on the part of five Council …, all of whom found McWilliams candidacy singularly unacceptable. The reason? McWillaims’s […]

  2. […] describes female genitalia to refer to Ward 3 Council member Stephen Kunselman. A2Politico posted a piece on September 4th about the content on McWilliams’s website and Twitter […]

  3. This from the Friday, October 4, 2013 edition of the Ann Arbor Chronicle relative to the advice memo generated by the City Attorney to City Council relative to the Al McWilliams confirmation vote that Sabra Briere and Chuck Warpehoski want attorney-client privilege waived regarding:

    “The advice memo likely establishes that it’s doubtful a successful court challenge could be brought – partly because it’s not clear who might have standing to bring such a suit.”

    Sounds like some City Hall insider – possibly even someone on City Council – has leaked the content of the Postema memo already to that periodical.

    In a later article published today, David Askins, suggested that the Council Rules’ reconsideration motion is a possible vehicle to rescind the confirmation of McWilliams a- although no amendments to the proposed City Council agenda have been made as of yet.

  4. A bombshell Resolution was recently placed on the Agenda for the October 7th City Council meeting.

    Sabra Briere and also Chuck Warpehoski sponsored this proposed resolution for the City Council to waive attorney-client privilege regarding City Attorney advice over the controversy arising from the Mayor withdrawing the appointment of Al McWilliams to the DDA board and re-introducing the matter and the next City Council meeting.

    It has been argued that the post-withdrawal vote required an eight-vote supermajority to be approved, rather than the six votes actually received in favor of McWilliams. This is pursuant to Council Rules.

    This waiver of purported attorney-client privilege is consonant with the spirit and the letter of the City Charter of Ann Arbor which requires the filing of City Attorney legal opinions with the City Clerk’s office.

    • Let’s all tune in and watch Sabra:

      A. Withdraw her own resolution
      B. Vote against her own resolution
      C. Amend her resolution so that the original intent is reversed

  5. […] describes female genitalia to refer to Ward 3 Council member Stephen Kunselman. A2Politico posted a piece on September 4th about the content on McWilliams’s website and […]

    • “….describes female genitalia to refer to …..Stephen Kunseman.

      Oh, no wonder why CM Kunselman got down to the City Clerk’s office to pull petitions 81/2 months before they were due.

      This could be a new way to advance your political fortunes in A2 – trash the Mayor’s City Council detractors.

  6. The Ann Arbor Chronicle now reports that the Al McWilliams nomination was not placed upon the Agenda until after 4:00 p.m. on the Monday of the City Council meeting and, also, violating City Council Rules Committee strictures by confirming a nominee at the first hearing without an eight-vote majority.

    Further, the late addition to the Agenda prevented the possibility of Public Commentary prior to the vote and very, very clearly violated the Open Meetings Act, thus making the appointment voidable upon circuit court review.

    • I can’t decide who looks more ridiculous Hieftje or the five Council members who voted against this appointment who didn’t bother to read the council rules. Sheesh. It’s like a three-ring circus over there.

  7. Al McWilliams was just confirmed by Ann Arbor City Council to the DDA Board after an unusally raucous exchange between City Council memebers during deliberations.

    The difference over last week was the appearance of Marcia Higgins, who cast a vote in favor of McWilliams.

    • She only seems to have two modes – invisible and incompetent.

    • After listening carefully to Sumi K.’s comments at council meetings for the past year, and
      reviewing her resolutions, I see a representative who speaks the truth in the name of
      fairness and equity for all. I see her as doing the best she can to operate with total
      integrity in a body not accustomed to it. She was the first council member to
      voice dissent over the McWilliams appointment. (There are other ethical CM’s, but I
      want to emphasize Sumi’s fearless approach as a new member.) The mayor has had
      success in creating a climate of corruption – I see Sumi as a CM willing to speak out
      against it.

  8. My favorite portion of the council debate on McWilliams’ conflict of interest was the disagreement over definition of conflict of interest. Those favoring McWilliams passionately argued that “appearance” of conflict of interest does not constitute “actual” conflict of interest.

    Then, certain council members gave examples of many how their own “appearances” of conflict of interest were not “actual” conflicts of interest. One councilperson had the audacity to state that if “appearance” of conflict of interest was the disqualifying standard, then everyone on council would be guilty of conflict of interest and nobody would vote. Stunning!

    This exactly why mayor/council must form a written ethics policy. Since council does not understand definition of conflict of interest, and they imagine themselves immune, conflicts of interest will prevail. Council must define their primary beneficiaries of service as normal Ann Arbor citizens. They must place the “public” back into their service, thus reconstituting “public service.”

    Without an ethics policy, votes benefiting council’s non-city beneficiaries (employers) will continue, even though they conflict with serving the public. This is a primary conflict, whereby council’s direct economic benefit is related to council vote. Voting on issues that favor mayor/council outside employers is a primary conflict of interest.

    Without an ethics policy, votes and awards for bid and non-bid contracts to friends and family will prevail and continue. This is secondary conflict of interest, whereby friends and family benefit by council vote.

    Without an ethics policy, self dealing will prevail. Examples of this may include the mayor doubling his salary for his part-time mayoral job, or council voting pay raises for themselves.

    Without an ethics policy, fulfillment of personal interests, such as the mayor’s continual pursuit of placing a train station on parkland, against specific public voted prohibition, will continue.

    Without an ethics policy, other mayoral whims will be placed above public interest, such as the mayor’s public art policy, whereby legally restricted, dedicated millage funds for roads and water/sewage are misappropriated for artworks that decorate city hall.

    Ethics canons for many professions exist to define conflict of interest, and are often used to fight fraud and corruption. In certain professions the definition of conflict of interest follows: “The mere appearance of conflict of interest, as viewed by a member of the general public, constitutes actual conflict of interest.”

    The McWilliams appointment is actually a barometer case, and the tip of the iceburg, for the true ethics of the mayor, council, and the DDA.

    Closing message to mayor, council, and DDA: If ethic issues confuse, you must recuse! Eliminate the confusion. Form an ethics policy now, before making any more council decisions.

    • Friday Adams makes so many good points in this comment I don’t even know where to begin. I’m not sure the mayor, council or DDA members are confused about ethics as much as they find it most convenient to simply do what they have always done. That there are members of the council who are finally standing up in favor of avoiding even the appearance of conflicts of interest is a very welcome change. Albert McWilliams was never a good choice, evidently, and we can only hope this dust up will make the mayor think long and hard about who he proposes for board appointments.

    • Can someone tell me why Stephen Kunselman didn’t move forward with this when he ran against Leigh Greden?

  9. Is it just my imagination, or has Mr. McWilliams removed some of the less mature content from his web site? I hope someone printed a copy of the content as it appeared before his nomination was withdrawn.

    If he removed web content because he recognized the legitimacy of the criticism he received, I am willing to give him some credit. If, on the other hand, he removed offensive content so it would not be an issue should he be nominated again, I think he does not understand the fundamental problem here.

  10. Birds of a feather. . .

  11. Excellent near-appointment there high-rise. He’s quite the prize.

    • Yes, McWilliams is quite the prize, like a booby prize. This guy is in advertising and kept shit like this up on his Facebook page and his Twitter account open to the public? Very professional. Maybe Hieftje will bring back this guy’s name and he’ll come to the meeting an we can all watch him shove an ice cream cone up his ass.

  12. Good job of reporting. Thanks!

    If the mayor does bring the McWilliams nomination back to council, it would be fun to watch if he were confronted with the embarrassing material in this article.

    It seems he must not have known how immature McWillaims is. Otherwise, how could Hieftje have nominated him? Hopefully Hieftje will read this and not return the nomination to council.

    • What a loser. Thank you to the Council members who stopped this guy from being appointed to the DDA. He doesn’t deserve to represent our city. Thank you to A2Politico for taking the time to track down this information.

      • What a loser?

        What about the 27-year old DDA member, Nader Nassif, who got six-figure no-bid legal sevices contracts for his firm and then gets arrested two years later on suspicion of criminal sexual conduct? There is a Facebook photo of him sitting on a certain circuit judge’s bench in judicial robes. – it has gone viral.

        What about the 27-year old Taxicab Board appointee, Eric Sturgis, who missed almost every meeting before resigning.

        What about Jeremy Peters, the multimedia expert, who got appointed to the Planning Commission with no meaningful background in development.

        What about Ray Detter, the Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council chairman who did not realize that all seats on his council expired as of October of 2012 and did not realize it until Ms. Lesko’s FOIA request uncovered the expirations – Detter was re-appointed to his seat several weeks later despite public commentary to City Council opposing his re-appointment due to the seat expiration fiasco.

        There are around 100 city boards, commissions, councils, committees and other public bodies authorized by the City of Ann Arbor that are staffed largely with political hacks, campaign donors, business insiders, or other losers who have obtained their position via political cronyism.

        Citizens should be e-mailing their City Council representatives to reject McWilliams for any post with the DDA or any public body.

        This is appalling!

  13. “Eaton…stressed the need for an ethics policy….”

    I was there and yes, he did.

    He has also stressed vigorous adherence to the Open Meetings Act.

    Jack Eaton, David Askins and I discussed the City Council Rules Committee just before the Council convened yesterday and I wondered aloud why the proposed rules amendment to allow Public Commentary period during “working sessions” of the City Council. Askins said that Marcia Higgins did not believe an amendment was necessarily needed as public commentary was not specifically barred during such sessions. I felt that a Public Commentary period being written into the Council Rules is needed for guidance so that City Council will not violate the strictures of the Open Meetings Act by denying the public opportunity to transmit input in a visible and personal manner at the deliberative session itself.

    When I delivered public commentary on this issue, I noticed Rules Committee chair Marcia Higgins was absent and explained this was how she acquired the unflattering sobriquet “The Invisible Woman”.

    Chuck Warpehoski indicated that City Council, even though it was going to postpone a vote on the proposed Council Rules amendments moved to ensure public commentary was solicited in the public notice to the upcoming working session and, further, that a Public Commentary period would be specifically denominaed on the meeting’s agenda.

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