Goldsboro City Council voted Thursday to start the process of censuring Councilman Antonio Williams due to his interactions with a city employee.
Council held a special called meeting Thursday to publicly discuss a 78-page report the city hired an attorney to complete regarding alleged harassment by Williams toward Shycole Simpson-Carter, Goldsboro community relations director.
In November, Simpson-Carter attempted to secure a no-contact order against Williams but was denied. Chief District Court Judge Elizabeth Heath ruled Simpson-Carter’s telling of events did not meet the requirements for the type of restraining order she was seeking.
The court ruling was played on tape and lasted about 17 minutes during the council’s meeting Thursday. Then, the board went into closed session for nearly two hours before coming back out into open session.
The investigation stems from a Sept. 27, 2018 incident during a Goldsboro-Wayne Transportation Authority board meeting when Simpson-Carter said Williams verbally attacked her and made her fear for her safety.
Councilman David Ham made the motion to censor and deny Williams access to the building where Simpson-Carter works. The council plans to send Williams a formal letter of the censor and, at that time, he will have the right to have a hearing.
Councilman Bevan Foster, who voted to deny Ham’s motion, asked if there was any action that could be taken against Simpson-Carter, since she made claims in court that were dismissed, claiming she had spread lies.
Mayor Chuck Allen reminded Foster he was going over the line talking about city personnel in open session. City attorney Ron Lawrence agreed, saying they would have to take that issue up in closed session.
Although the judge denied Simpson-Carter’s request for the no-contact order, Heath said she had no doubt there were issues between Simpson-Carter and Williams but they didn’t add up to what would meet the requirements for the order.
As he left City Hall, Councilman Gene Aycock said it was an unfortunate situation.
“We had to take action because we’re trying to protect the city,” Aycock said. “Because the report actually said that if we didn’t take action then we could be found guilty of harboring a hostile work environment and that’s what we’re doing. We’re going to protect our employees.”
Councilman Bill Broadaway said the board was also trying to protect the citizens from monetary issues.
“We’re following what we had to do but we are protecting our employees,” Broadaway said.
Aycock said there was no animosity toward Williams. The council just took action that it felt was necessary.
But Williams, who denied all allegations of improper behavior, said he would fight the motion.
Williams said he first filed a verbal claim with former interim city manager Randy Guthrie, asking for a closed session to talk about concerns he had about Simpson-Carter.
On Oct. 5, Williams said he gave Guthrie and the human relations director a written complaint.
Williams said there are other problems in the city, like homelessness, affordable housing and jobs, that need to be focused on but because of the distractions over the incident, he can’t focus on the things that need to get done.
“But they want to censor me,” he said as he stood outside of the conference room after the special session.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t expect anything differently. It’s a contentious board. They have their issues for voting how they chose to vote. It’s very disappointing because it has hurt this community, this board’s actions.
“You know they try to paint me as a monster. But I’m not a monster. I was really calm about this. If she was so frightened, why is she still coming to the council meetings?”
Williams said what Simpson-Carter should have done was gone to the human resources director or Equal Employment Opportunity.
“My whole time of being a councilman, I’ve never had any type of grievances from anybody,” Williams said. “So, I’m very hurt and disappointed and they are hurting the city. It’s a distraction.”