No Reasons Given for Williams’ Move to Law Dept.

Though local media have reported the departure from the Minority Business Enterprise Council of Michael P. Williams, who headed the city agency for slightly more than two years, not much is clear about the circumstances surrounding the move.

Was there a specific incident that caused Mayor John Street to ask him to step down, such as the widely publicized March incident in which Williams appeared before City Council without written testimony or the data that certain members of council  were interested in seeing?

Or does it indicate that the Street administration is interested in extending an olive branch to local African-American business community leaders who have been upset over the choice of Williams — a line of critique that, some say, has more to do with Williams’ status as an openly gay man than anything else.

Street’s press office did not respond to The Legal’s request for comment, and Williams likewise has not been reachable.

In a statement released earlier this week, City Solicitor Romulo L. Diaz Jr. said that Williams would be joining Philadelphia’s law department as a senior attorney for child welfare appeals.

Did Williams seek out this new position, or did the Mayor’s Office help broker the move?

Diaz did not respond to a request for an interview.

Barbara Ash, chair of the law department’s social services law group, said that she is always glad to have another attorney join her team, but deferred all other questions to Diaz.

Before going to work for the city, Williams practiced at Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads and was deputy director at Community Legal Services.

In 2003 and 2004, he participated in Street's “Philadelphia 21st Century Review Forum,” which issued a number of ethics-related reports, as a member of the subcommittee on gifts, ethics codes and personnel rules.

A native of the inner city community of Compton, Calif., Williams went from being homeless as a young man in the 1970s to graduating from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law in 1996.

Despite his leadership credentials, Williams likely won’t be on the management track when he gets to his new workplace: The law department’s “senior attorney” position is typically held by more experienced attorneys who chose to focus on a particular practice area, rather than seek a management role in the department.

— Asher Hawkins

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