I don't know what's worse, the fact that Broward School Board candidate Travis Williamson was once caught peeping into a neighbor's house to watch a pregnant woman shower or the fact that he now denies the incident ever happened.
The 29-year-old Williamson, who is running for Bob Parks' seat against three other challengers, was 17 years old when he was caught peeping into a 35-year-old neighbor's window in the dark of night, the victim says. The victim, whose name isn't being published because of the nature of the incident, said Williamson broke into a screened patio at her home in late 1997 and "rearranged the patio furniture" to get on a table so he could see her over the shower curtain. She was nine months pregnant at the time and said that Williamson was dressed all in black along with two of his younger brothers, who were hiding nearby in some bushes.
Police were called, and former BSO Det. Jim Murray was put on the case, says the victim. She says she's not sure if he was ever charged with a crime, but she chose not to press charges in the case so long as Williamson underwent therapy and wrote a letter of apology.
Williamson, who is now married with two children, stresses in his campaign the importance of his actions when he was 17, only it has nothing to do with the peeping incident. At that time, he was serving as student liaison to the Broward County School Board, which basically forms the sum total of his experience with the school district.
Perhaps most troubling of all, he won't own up to the fact that he was ever accused of peeping at all. He denies that anything like it ever happened in his life. He denies knowing the name of his accuser or having been involved in any incident in that time frame in which the police were involved or there was a question about any of his activities.
He did say that a similar allegation was raised when he ran for the Pompano Commission in 2008 but it went away because the allegation was never substantiated.
"This is news to me," Williamson said today when I told him the victim's story. "Now, you have more details than there were when I
I ran for city commissioner... I wasn't there and didn't do anything of that nature. It never happened. I have never, ever, ever been aware of anything like this."
Unfortunately for Williamson, it's not just the victim who confirms who the story but also another neighbor, Tom Swanick. It was Swanick who caught Williamson in the act. When contacted today, Swanick said he didn't want to talk about the case or "get involved in politics" but did confirm that he had caught Travis Williamson peeping into the victim's window.
The victim says she is trying to retrieve the apology letter Williamson wrote at the time. I am also trying to contact Murray for more confirmation.
"The letter wasn't any good because he didn't admit to anything," said the victim. "I thought [the three brothers] needed therapy and guidance, especially Travis. I was told he went to one therapy session and apparently told the therapist to 'F off.' ... I don't think he should be on the School Board."
I first learned about the incident from an anonymous caller a couple of weeks ago. I contacted Williamson about it, and he assured me that he'd never in his life been involved in any peeping incident whatsoever.
I had the name of the victim and finally spoke to her this morning. She told me of the troubling details of the incident, which, with the broken patio screen and black clothing, sounded like some kind of peeping commando mission. She said it occurred while she was following her routine of taking a shower after her 3-year-old child was put to bed. She says she's now sure that Williamson knew her routine and had peeped more than once.
"He was caught watching me shower when I was nine months pregnant," she said. "The neighbor [Swanick] pulled into the driveway and saw something suspicious. [Williamson] ran home down the street. I called the police, and the police came there, and [Williamson] got in the car and went down to the station. He said he was just passing through. His mother came down crying too.
"He had to break through the screening of a patio and rearrange the furniture to stand up on a table to watch me shower. There's something wrong with that."
Williamson's campaign for the School Board -- in which he is running against Russell Kaufman, James Lansing, and Nora Rupert -- focuses squarely on his achievements in high school, namely his work as a student representative to the School Board. Here's the top of his bio from his campaign website:
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During his time at Ely High School he was recognized with the Silver Cord for Outstanding Community Service, a recipient of the National Science Merit Award, was inducted into the National Honor Society and graduated in the top 10% of his class. He was also selected by his peers countywide to represent the 250,000 students of Broward County as the Assistant Student Advisor to the School Board. In that capacity, he was able to bring forth problems experienced by students in the school system publicly, while attending meetings and sitting on the dias of the School Board. He lobbied extensively to relieve school overcrowding and took part in traveling to Tallahassee to report these issues to then Governor Jeb Bush.
When I questioned Williamson about it the first time, I urged him to tell the truth. Had he done so, this might not have escalated to a published post, but the fact that he denies anything happened at all tells me he's not being honest about his past as a candidate.
I told him as much today and let him know I was going to publish an article.
"I have nothing to hide," said Williamson. "I don't know why you are going to report on it, but that's your prerogative, so go ahead. I don't have a problem with it, but there is no truth involved. There are no half-truths involved. I don't know of this situation. I don't know what to tell you. I have nothing to tell you, because I have no idea what you are talking about."