Is Mayor Williams' company having a contract with the city a conflict of interest?


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    Karla Bailey, the owner of Abilene Printing and Stationary, has been holding back her frustration for years.

    "It just seems to be unfair," said Bailey.

    From 2010 to early 2016, Bailey's company had a printing contract with the City of Abilene, but that changed in March of 2016 at an Abilene City Council meeting.

    "The staff is recommending that we award that contract to Southwest Direct," said Mike Rains, Abilene's Director of Finance.

    The co-owner of Southwest Direct is Mayor of Abilene Anthony Williams, who was an Abilene City Councilman at the time.

    Williams bought the printing and direct mail company less than a year before the company was awarded the City of Abilene's printing contract.

    "Why would you buy a printing company and you're going to run for mayor and for the first time, the printing bid comes up, they get it," said Bailey.

    At that Abilene City Council meeting in March of 2016, Abilene City Councilman Steve Savage questioned the City of Abilene's recommendation to award the city's printing contract to Southwest Direct, noting that their bid was only $329 lower than Abilene Printing and Stationary's bid.

    "With a $400 difference, based on everything, I would say Abilene Printing and Stationary would be the better deal," said Savage.

    Savage also pointed out the cost for emergency priority work, which was quoted higher by Southwest Direct.

    Abilene City Manager Robert Hanna then chimed in, saying that the higher rush service quote by Southwest Direct did not really make a difference.

    "Yes, we need to know the price, but it's not historically incurred," said Hanna.

    The Abilene City Council subsequently voted unanimously to award the city's printing contract to then-Abilene City Councilman Williams' company.

    Before the Abilene City Council voted on the printing contract, Williams left the room and abstained from voting.

    "I want to state I didn't have any advantage to this that I went beyond what was requested by state law," said Williams.

    The City of Abilene agrees with what Williams said.

    Abilene City Attorney Stanley Smith sent KTXS a letter with the station's public information request for documents.

    KTXS never asked Smith for a letter or a statement, but he wrote, "Councilman Anthony Williams fully complied with all laws regarding public disclosure and abstaining from discussion and voting in this matter in which he had a conflict of interest."

    Between June of 2016 and the end of 2018, the City of Abilene paid Williams' company, Southwest Direct, $159,527 for their printing services.

    From 2013 to 2015, the City of Abilene paid Abilene Printing and Stationary $197,000 for their printing services.

    "The city spent less money in printing today than it was previously," said Williams.

    Williams filed three conflict of interest statements, but for three years, none of those statements could be found on the City of Abilene's website, where such statements by city officials are posted.

    "At the time, when I conferred with the City Attorney and the City Manager, I did everything I was told I was supposed to do," said Williams.

    On February 8, a day after KTXS interviewed Williams, his conflict of interest statement suddenly appeared online, three years after the printing contract was awarded to his company.

    On February 9, Williams came forward about the contract for the first time, posting on his "Anthony for Abilene" Facebook page that his company acquired the City of Abilene's printing contract three years ago and also posted copies of the documents that KTXS received after filing a public records request.

    "I offer these facts with the belief that the good people of Abilene value transparency and accountability," said Williams.

    Former Abilene City Councilman Bruce Kreitler voted in favor of awarding the City of Abilene's printing contract to Southwest Direct.

    Kreitler did about $7,000 worth of work for the City of Abilene and posted conflict of interest statements online.

    Kreitler said that the City of Abilene's printing contract with Southwest Direct needs to be looked at more closely.

    "I think it deserves a really good looking into," said Kreitler.

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