Jewell Williams

Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams lost his bid for reelection to Rochelle Bilal, president of the Guardian Civic League. In the weeks since he lost, Williams has begun reevaluating where he publishes sheriff’s sale ads.

— Photo by Michael Candelori/Sipa USA via AP Images

Embattled Sheriff Jewell Williams might not have earned the endorsement of his party in his bid for re-election, but he has the support of several powerful unions.

And he received more support Saturday from the Christian Fellowship Ministers’ Conference of Philadelphia & Vicinity.

“We are supporting him because of what he has done in the job,” said the Rev. Aldric A. Baker, pastor of the St. Mark Baptist Church in North Philadelphia and president of the CFMCPV. “He has returned money to people who have had their houses taken from them at sheriff sale. He has been accessible to Black people in the community who would rather not deal with the sheriff’s office. These are the things that we know.”

The CFMCPV represents more than 45 African-American congregations.

Williams faces challenges from three other candidates: Rochelle Bilal, longtime president of the Guardian Civic League and secretary of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP; former deputy sheriff Malika Rahman; and Larry King, a veteran of 26 years in corrections.

If Bilal or Rahman wins, either would be the first woman elected sheriff.

Earlier this month, the Philadelphia Democratic Committee briefly considered endorsing Williams, but decided not to endorse any of the four candidates.

Even though he did not get his party’s endorsement, Williams is largely considered the favorite in the race. He has picked up endorsements from the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5, Laborers’ International Union of North America Local Union 332, and Philadelphia AFL-CIO. However, female members of the AFL-CIO represented by the Philadelphia Coalition of Labor Union Women wrote a letter condemning the AFL-CIO’s endorsement of Williams.

Three women have accused Williams of making inappropriate advances and lewd remarks.

In February, the city’s Law Department agreed to settle a sexual harassment case against Williams filed by Marliana Williams, an employee in the sheriff’s office from 2013 to 2017, for $127,000. The Democratic Caucus of the state House settled another sexual harassment case against Williams, formerly a state representative, paying out $30,000 to former staffer Karan M. Rogers. A third lawsuit is ongoing.

“I don’t know if he’s guilty or not,” Baker said. “I do know that one woman was willing to settle and that is proof to me that she did not have a lot of belief in her accusations.”

If there was proof Williams had done something wrong, “we would come down on him like a ton of bricks,” Baker continued. “As far as I know, he has lived his life as a man of God.”

Baker pointed to the Defendants Asset Recovery Team (DART), a division of the sheriff’s office responsible for returning cash to those who have lost their homes in sheriff’s sales, as a reason why his group is supporting Williams. In 2018, the sheriff’s office returned $3,753,918 to property owners who were owed excess cash as a result of sheriff sales, according to the sheriff’s website. Since 2012, the sheriff’s office has returned more than $17 million to property owners.

Baker also said that Williams has been active in talking to CFMCPV member congregations about how to work with the sheriff’s office.

“That has to account for something, doesn’t it?” said Baker, who is also the chaplain at the 22nd Police District. “You have heard the allegations against him. They have never been proved. We are supporting him for what we know he is doing in our communities.”

The larger and more widely recognized Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity is expected to make endorsements within the next week. Asked if the organization would endorse a candidate for sheriff, President Jay Broadnax said he had no comment.

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