Armstrong: Seth Williams is such a disappointment

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Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams speaks during a news conference in Philadelphia, Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. Williams has announced he won's run for a third term.

After you climb the stairs to the mezzanine level of the District Attorney's Office, the first thing you see is a row of images of  people who've  held the office -  all males, save for Lynne M. Abraham, and all white, except for  R. Seth Williams.

I can't help but think of that in the aftermath of Friday's bombshell that he won't be seeking a third term because of controversy surrounding his acceptance of gifts and failure to report them. 

I'm disappointed and embarrassed that Williams would allow himself to get into a mess like this.  I thought he was smarter.  I thought he was more honest. 

But no. He's just another once-promising black politician thwarted by greed. At this point, I should be used to it, but I'm not.  I'm fed up with politicians who claim they'll  look out for the underserved, but once they're in office, they use it  to enrich themselves.  To me,  it feels like a double betrayal when black politicians do it. 

Williams really let this city down.  A whole lot of  us had pinned our hopes on him, hoping that having a DA who could relate to our struggle as African Americans would make a difference.   I didn't agree with all of his moves. But Williams did some good things as DA.  I'll give him credit for that. 

I hate that he threw it all away.  And for what? Tickets to see the Phillies and 76ers?  Visa gift cards worth $750? Lodging from a criminal defense attorney with a case before the DA's Office?

He knew the deal.  What was he thinking? Managed well, his  salary of $175,572 should have been more than enough to provide him with the upscale lifestyle he so obviously craved.

The Ethics Board slapped Williams for failing to report five sources of income and 89 gifts - worth $160,050 - on city financial statements over six years.  He was fined $62,000 by the Ethics Board - the largest penalty it has ever imposed. 

"So my decision to accept gifts and failure to report them brought much embarrassment and  shame and adverse publicity  to me and unfortunately to the office," Williams said  at a news conference on Friday. "For this I will always hold deep regret in my heart.

"My poor judgment caused distractions which made the already difficult job of my assistants and critical staff even more challenging.  It  raised doubts in the minds of some citizens regarding my character and fitness to serve as your district attorney," he continued.  "To those who have served, to those who serve today and to those who will serve in the future,  I offer my deepest and most sincere apology."

Williams said he planned to spend the balance of his term trying to regain people's trust.

Good luck with that.

His political career is  toast.  

A piece of me is relieved Williams won't be seeking reelection. As a city, we have a  lot more to debate during that race than Williams'  questionable ethics.

A whole lot of people are rejoicing right now,  among them, no doubt, some of the Democratic legislators who lost their jobs after accepting petty amounts of cash and gifts. They must be feeling vindicated. What they were accused of pales in comparison.

But there's nothing to celebrate.

We all lost with Williams.