Ferguson apologizes for accosting fellow council member, cites health problems for his actions

Bill Ferguson apologized Tuesday for accosting a fellow Hilton Head Island council member before an April 5 meeting.

Citing health concerns, he also asked the mayor to relieve him of committee duties.

"Clearly, I was not myself that evening," Ferguson said, reading from a prepared statement at the beginning of Tuesday's council meeting.

The Ward 1 representative called Councilman George Williams Jr. a bigot and laid hands on him in council chambers before a meeting. Accounts vary about whether Ferguson put his hands on Williams' neck, grabbed his shirt collar or merely put his hands on Williams' shoulder. When the meeting began, Ferguson disrupted proceedings several times before storming out.

Ferguson also walked out of a council meeting March 15, accusing other council members afterward of discriminating against him because he is black.

On Tuesday, Ferguson said his behavior stemmed from health problems, but he did not elaborate.

"While not seeking to excuse my behavior, I feel it is important for me to explain that I have been battling significant health issues that have their root in my military service," he said. "Since 1970, I have been seeking help for these conditions, and sometimes the treatment I am undergoing needs adjustment. Last Tuesday was a time when I was not well."

Ferguson said he has since met several times with his doctors to make certain his medical condition "is being addressed for both my own well-being and for the well-being of those around me."

He said he will follow through with his treatment plan and wished to keep those details private.

Ferguson said his doctors have advised him to reduce stress. He asked Mayor Drew Laughlin to excuse him from his duties on council committees until his doctors believe he can resume. Laughlin agreed.

"Going forward, I am committed to representing the interests of Ward 1 and all town residents in a manner that is more consistent with the way I have for the last 18 years," Ferguson said. "While I may not always agree with my fellow members of council, I am committing to all of you that I will conduct myself in a manner that conforms to our code of conduct, and of which we can all be proud."

Laughlin, Williams and other council members accepted the apology.

"I accept his apology, and as far as I'm concerned, we need to do our best to support him and move on to take care of the town's business," Williams said.

Laughlin said he believes Ferguson's behavior was an unfortunate, isolated incident not indicative of his years of service to the town and was grateful for Ferguson's honesty and remorse.

"I look forward to (his) getting better and working with (him) to the benefit of all our citizens," Laughlin said.