On the day before the Nov. 4 election, Vic Williams, a Republican candidate for state representative in LD-26, was supposed to be in a California small claims court.

He was being sued because he hadn’t returned a $400 rental deposit to Tasha Downum, an Iraq veteran and single mother, who rented his Southern California beach house. Williams didn’t show for the hearing. The judge awarded Downum $1,845 – three times the deposit, plus travel costs and other expenses.

The next day, Williams won the legislative seat.

As I write this, almost two months after the judge’s decision, Williams still hasn’t paid what he owes.

Williams told me he wouldn’t comment on the details of the case, that he and Tasha were in the middle of working it out. But the fact is, Williams hadn’t been in contact with her since long before the court hearing.

I don’t understand why Williams didn’t return the deposit in the first place, or why he hasn’t paid what the judge ordered.

It isn’t that Tasha left the beach house in bad shape. Williams never made that claim, and she assures me she left the place clean.

Maybe he thought no one here would find out. After all, the beach rental is in California and Tasha lives in Missouri. If that was his thinking, he was nearly right. The only reason I got wind of this is because Tasha’s mother commented on a post I wrote about Williams on Blog for Arizona, and she and I e-mailed back and forth about the details of the story. She also sent me the court documents.

(The blog post she commented on, by the way, didn’t speak well of Williams’ character. Williams hadn’t responded to repeated invitations from a woman organizing a candidate’s educational forum at Catalina Foothills High School. Then he showed up the night of the forum and bullied his way onto the stage.)

The more you know about Tasha Downum, the worse Williams looks. In the spring of 2008, Tasha was finishing a one-year tour in Iraq, in the motor pool of the 325th Combat Support Hospital. She talked with her mother about taking a vacation after she returned in June. They decided on the beach. She wanted to be around water after a hot, dry year in Iraq, and her son Javier had never been to the ocean. They found Williams’ beach home on a rental website, paid the rent and the $400 refundable deposit, and the whole family had a wonderful two weeks on the Pacific Ocean – Tasha, her son, her mother and her grandmother .

It’s an American Flag, Mother and Apple Pie moment if I’ve ever heard one. And by not returning the $400 deposit, Williams looks very much like a villain in the piece.

I return to my earlier question. Why didn’t Williams return Tasha’s deposit? If this is the way he does business, it’s a terrible reflection on his character -- and on his intelligence, pulling a stunt like this during a heated campaign where one false move could cost the election.

To be honest, I was never very impressed with what I saw of Williams on the campaign trail. I supported the Democratic candidates in LD-26, but something made me distrust Williams that went beyond partisanship. It was his puff-chested, broad smiling, shake-hands-with-everyone-in-the-room demeanor, combined with his penchant for telling everyone what they wanted to hear. I’m always wary of businesspeople and politicians who act that way.

So the story of the unreturned deposit just adds to concerns I already had about the kind of man we elected to represent us in the state legislature.

Perhaps I’m being unfair. Maybe there’s more to this story than I know. But only Williams can tell his side of the story. And so far, he isn’t talking.

David Safier is a regular contributor to Blog for Arizona.

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