A Nashville area resident active in business and civic life in Rocky Mount blasted the city government in the aftermath of the recent cyber attack on the city’s computer network — and he said he believes city customers have been put at risk.
Clint Williams, addressing the City Council on Monday evening, also said he believes there needs to be a state-level probe into current and former council members going back a decade, on grounds of what he says are dishonesty and a lack of ethics.
Specifically, Williams cited information showing he believes Councilman Andre Knight and Knight’s parents have delinquent utility bills going back six years ago.
Williams was commenting in the context of the outcome of a probe of the city’s finances and operations made public on May 15 by State Auditor Beth Wood.
Those findings included that Knight allegedly received advantageous treatment from municipal administrations through the years, including a write-off of a total of $47,704 in utility bills.
Williams also was commenting in the context of a Sept. 2 press conference at which City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney said the city was the victim of “a sophisticated ransomware attack.”
Williams told the council there is confirmation the hackers have released and posted online unredacted personally identifiable information about city customers.
Williams said this includes non-city residents, such as those who receive natural gas service in Nashville or water services beyond the Rocky Mount city limits.
“This personal data can be used to validate addresses of victims and enhance a hacker’s profile of customers to perform account takeovers from bank accounts or other identity theft activities,” Williams said. “It is out there. It’s in the public. People’s PII (personally identifiable information) has been violated.”
Williams said as illegal as the breach is — and as incredibly embarrassing for the city that personally identifiable information has been exposed — this also shows that Wood, State Treasurer Dale Folwell and possibly state Attorney General Josh Stein and the State Bureau of Investigation “needs to further investigate this City Council’s corruption and conflicts of interest.”
Williams also said that exposed in the cyber breach is proof that a councilman, as well as the councilman’s parents in the Englewood area in the northwestern part of the city, have not paid their utility bills since at least 2014.
Williams did not name names, but he was referring to Andre Knight, Benjamin Knight and Virginia Knight. Benjamin Knight died in 2017.
“How many other family and friends of this council have improperly benefited from special favors and conflicts to the tune of thousands of dollars?” Williams asked.
Then, Williams told the council, “I got proof, just like she do.”
That was a play on one of the comments Andre Knight made to Raleigh-Durham area television station WTVD in denying wrongdoing in response to the outcome of the probe by Wood.
Williams told the council he believes everyone who served on the seven-member panel during the past 10 years needs to be investigated.
Williams also told the council that any adjacent family and friends who have had large city power bills or other city bills written off needs to be brought up on criminal charges, along with any council member.
Williams additionally told the council he believes there needs to be compensation to the taxpayers of all money not paid — “in essence, stolen.”
“Anyone who has been a party to this corruption, at least as far back as 2014, should be fully investigated, audited and the results fully made public,” Williams said.
Williams on Monday morning phoned into local television station WHIG’s weekday call-in program to say what he later told the council.
Also during Monday’s council meeting, a member of the Knight family read aloud a prepared statement from Virginia Knight.
In the statement, Virginia Knight told of being 81 years old and of having grown up amid racial segregation in Rocky Mount but of never seeing racism like she does today.
Virginia Knight in the statement told of there being people in 2020 who enjoy creating trouble, but who never see the good in a person.
“My family has been targeted long enough. You won’t even let my deceased husband rest in peace. Put yourself in our shoes. What kind of message are you sending to the next generation?” Virginia Knight said in the statement.
Virginia Knight in the statement called for coming together to help each other locally, particularly amid the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and for drawing people to the city and not driving them away.
She also said Andre Knight has done much locally, including helping strangers by sheltering them and paying their mortgages and utility bills in the aftermath of flooding in the city in 1999.
“If you can’t say good about a person, then say nothing,” Virginia Knight said in the statement. “I’m looking to live the rest of my days out in peace, love and happiness.”
During Monday’s council meeting, resident Johnny Cunningham blasted Williams and said he believes the council needs to put a foot down when someone uses the speaker’s podium to be disrespectful.
Cunningham also said he believes Don Bulluck Chevrolet, which sponsors WHIG’s call-in show, and BB&T, where Williams is employed, should be held accountable “for allowing and condoning that action — and the vicious lies that he has leveled against a woman that I highly respect as my mother, been knowing her for 30 years.”