Commissioner calls out critic

Tax protester challenged for not paying taxes
By Vicki Hyatt | Apr 26, 2013

Comments from a critic who regularly scolds the Haywood County Board of Commissioners about budget and tax issues prompted one commissioner to push back on April 15, commonly called “Tax Day.”

Jonnie Cure, a retired real estate business owner, has taken a lead role in opposing a 2 percent increase in the occupancy tax assessed on those staying at overnight accommodations in the county. All but two local government leaders, Maggie Valley aldermen Philip Wight and Mike Matthews, support the increase as a way to fund capital projects within the county they hope will boost tourism.

During a public comment session, Cure took a swipe at the proposal she’s fighting against and took issue with a letter sent to state Sen. Jim Davis on the occupancy tax issue.

She read the letter in its entirety, emphasizing parts where Commission Chairman Mark Swanger apologized for the small minority in the county who felt as though they must oppose any positive measures and referenced a “small yet extremely vocal group of citizens” whose views were based on unfounded opinions, misinformation and ideologies rather than facts.

Cure said she was offended by comments in the letter about those opposed to the tax, said the letter could have been written without them and asked for the letter to be introduced into the minutes.

“Anyone who opposes this needs to know what this body thinks of them,” Cure said.

While Cure’s comments were similar to ones she has made to the commissioners before, this time, Commissioner Kevin Ensley took issue with her remarks.

“What offends me, Ms. Cure, is that over there in the Justice Center, you have hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax liens,” he said, referencing IRS and North Carolina court documents filed to collect taxes. “What offends me is why you don’t pay your taxes.”

In a later interview, Ensley said he challenged Cure this time because it was on April 15, Tax Day, and he had just finished paying his quarterly employer taxes and income taxes.

“She was telling us what offended her, so I let her know what offended me,” he said. “I knew that 95 percent of the people in Haywood County had paid their taxes by the deadline, and here is somebody talking about paying taxes who doesn’t pay hers.”

Ensley said he also spoke out because he thinks it is “important for the public to know the character and integrity of the people making statements about tax policy.”

Cure attempted to respond to Ensley’s remarks, but Swanger said the public comment session was over.

“You mean I can’t answer Kevin Ensley’s comments?” she asked.

“No,” Swanger responded.

The occupancy tax issue is the most recent one where Cure has been leading the charge against taxing and spending.

Though she is not an accommodation owner who would be collecting the tax, she said she opposed the hike because of its long-lasting implications for county and town taxpayers.

“They are pretending this money is coming from out-of-towners and only tourists will be paying,” Cure said. “That’s totally false. Once we invest in these projects, who will support, maintain, insure and market them. They’re pretending there are no unintended consequences here. I will have to pay taxes on this until I’m dead.”

Court documents dating back 20 years confirm Ensley’s statement about tax liens filed against Cure. They also show Cure had years of unpaid county and town taxes, as well.

When asked about Ensley’s comment regarding her tax payment situation, Cure said she is seeking the advice of legal counsel and doesn’t want to discuss the issue.