The political and housing brass in Lakewood have long heard the rumors: Jeffrey Williamson, a housing inspector, was for sale. So they weren’t exactly blindsided by the news yesterday morning that the two-time Assembly candidate was arrested on bribery charges as part of a sweeping FBI public corruption probe.
Still, it stung.
“I’ve heard rumors over the years but was hoping they were just that and wouldn’t come to light,” Committeeman Ray Coles said.
One rumor that floated past Mayor Robert Singer and others was an FBI investigation looking at Williamson some three years ago that fell short.
Singer, also a state senator whose Republican ticket ran against Williams’ in 2007, did not want to raise the suspicions during the campaign for fear of political backlash.
“Every time we think we’ve got corruption behind us, its head reappears to again shake the people’s trust in their government,” he said, adding that “compromising the safety of people” by cutting corners on housing inspections was especially “offensive.”
Williamson was suspended without pay from his inspection job yesterday, pending the results of the investigation, Singer said.
The 57-year-old father of one was charged with extortion under color of official right. The criminal complaint states that the inspector of 10 years accepted some $17,500 in bribes from April 2007 to July 2009 in return for leniency on his property inspections for a real estate developer, who was actually a cooperating witness facing bank fraud charges.
During one meeting at a Lakewood restaurant in late April 2007, Williamson accepted $500 cash from the developer in the unoccupied women’s bathroom, according to the complaint.
A manager of the developer’s properties also was arrested and charged with introducing the developer to Williamson and assisting in the payoffs.
“I guess everyone knew, and now it finally happened,” Mike McNeil, Lakewood’s fair housing officer, said of the arrest.