Letters, Sept. 1

Aug 29, 2014

I am Denny King

To the editor:

In The Mountaineer article “County wins tax appeal” Vicki Hyatt stated, a court appeal... has been settled in the county’s favor.

Really? The North Carolina Court of Appeals has sent the case back to the Property Tax Commission to articulate its decision. This case is not settled.

In the appeal the county stated their evidence supported the county board’s valuation of my home and requested the court provide guidance to the Property Tax Commission as to the weight and sufficiency of their evidence. The court declined the county’s request.

I believe the court was correct as the evidence does not add up to a market factor of 130 percent.

David Francis said, “When the county appealed its loss to the Court of Appeals, only briefs were reviewed, so there was no need to pay attorney Charles Meeker for that.”

Francis seems to be out of touch — every document sent to the court of appeals was also mailed to me — all were signed by Charles Meeker, including the county brief. Did Meeker offer his service free of charge?

Francis said several motions filed by King added to the county cost.

The court granted my motion to include critical documents including an omitted sale and a county comparable that decreased 30 percent after the property tax appeal.

Motions were also filed due to Haywood County attorney and lobbyist Leon Killian giving campaign contributions to one of the Judges hearing our case which included a contribution after the judge was scheduled to hear our case.

It’s my opinion this was unethical and a major conflict of interest. US Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, Preston v Leake November 7, 2011

“Any payment made by a lobbyist to a public official, whether a campaign contribution or simply a gift, calls into question the propriety of the relationship, and therefore North Carolina could rationally adjudge that it should ban all payments.”

As for Francis’ diatribe about this being the only issue that I am running on, he must not be wired to the public. I am a taxpayer too and merely wish to exercise my rights.

Hyatt’s statement that the value the commission put on my house is halfway between the county’s assessment and my figure is absolutely false.

In my opinion, this was a political move by The Mountaineer and county officials to deceive the taxpayers of Haywood County and attempt to change the outcome of upcoming elections.

Hyatt was correct with one statement, “King is in for the long haul.”

Denny King



Comments (16)
Posted by: Scott Lilly | Aug 29, 2014 16:05

Mr. King, it is nice to know that you have a forum here to tell your side of the story.  I can't tell how much "political moving" The Mountaineer does in these cases.  I once fact-checked a statement County Attorney Chip Killian gave to The Mountaineer.  The attorney was wrong and I think The Mountaineer simply gave too much credibility to the attorney and accepted his words as true.


Then in other cases, The Mountaineer will make a "news story" out of a Democrat's (negative) opinions about Republicans.  Which could make some think there is a "slant" to things.


We all have biasness.  The fact that The Mountaineer is publishing your views is at least an indicator that there is intent to be fair.  I appreciate that.


I have no way of knowing, but I don't think there are any right-wingers that write for the Mountaineer.  But they do allow space for anyone to write articles here online.  I have done so.  I'm glad to see now you also have done that.  It's the best service to the community The Mountaineer can offer -- a public forum for all points of view.


I'll be interested to see how the Property Tax Commission clarifies their opinion and what that would mean to the case.  And once that clarification is made, I would like to see that reported here.

Posted by: Scott Lilly | Aug 29, 2014 16:33

I am interested in more detail about this part:


"Motions were also filed due to Haywood County attorney and lobbyist Leon Killian giving campaign contributions to one of the Judges hearing our case which included a contribution after the judge was scheduled to hear our case."


Mr. King took his case to the Property Tax Commission and they agreed the King property was valued/taxed too much.  The County did not like that decision and took it to court where the court is now asking for more detail from the Property Tax Commission.  What role did County Attorney Chip Killian have in this process?  And can we see when his participation in this issue may have overlapped with any money he gave a judge that also had a role in this?  The implications could be rather disturbing.


Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Aug 30, 2014 08:38

               Mere accusations with no proof of any wrongdoing.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Sep 02, 2014 12:41

The "accusation" is what's up for consideration:


“Any payment made by a lobbyist to a public official, whether a campaign contribution or simply a gift, calls into question the propriety of the relationship, and therefore North Carolina could rationally adjudge that it should ban all payments.”


Is a lobbyist making payment to a public official?  If so, does the context of that payment to a public official call "into question the propriety of the relationship"?


There was consideration that the County Attorney gave improper advice to County officials.  (http://themountaineer.villagesoup.com/p/legal-counsel-to-haywood-county-board-of-directors/1143843)  From the single incident it's hard to determine if the County Attorney is incompetent or inappropriate, but if there is another data point to consider here, I'd like to hear it.  (More formally than an opinion piece.  I mean that might be more newsworthy than Mr. Queen's opinions of Republicans.)

Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Sep 02, 2014 17:18

                Again. You prove nothing but that you wear your prejudices on your shoulder like a chip.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Sep 02, 2014 19:48

I have nothing to prove.  I only ask the question.

Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Sep 03, 2014 09:48

               You and the letter writer make accusations that are unfounded and unproven.

                So far no wrong doing has been proven.

                The reporters have reported on the issue as they knew the facts to be at the time.

                 The paper has given Denny King several opportunities to state his opinion and/or set the facts straight.

                  I don't have first hand knowledge of the issue. It appears to be in flux. But I have not seen any effort to oppress Mr. King by this paper. Or the courts or prosecutor. Disagreements yes. But Mr. King has had opportunities to present his case. Who is right or wrong is yet to be seen.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Sep 03, 2014 10:43

I proved that the County Attorney, Chip Killian, was in error giving advice on "too much service".  I cannot prove his motivations.  I proved The Mountaineer incorrectly concluded and reported that no law was broken - at least in part by the advice the County Attorney gave to them.  I saw no retraction or correction from The Mountaineer on that topic so I'm still not sure what to think about Ms. Hyatt's motivations other than she "moved on".


It seems this flawed process is repeating itself.  The Court of Appeals sent the King case back to the Property Tax Commission for clarification.  The Mountaineer (seemingly) incorrectly concluded and reported that the County "wins tax appeal" when in fact nothing was decided. 


Taking the county's position for face value might not be wise. I cannot prove The Mountaineer's motivations -- but I give credit to them publishing Mr. King's telling of the issue.  That addresses issue #1.


Issue #2 is that I do not like to see County Attorney, Chip Killian, reportedly paying a judge.  Mr. Killian is also a lobbyist.  I don't know enough about what's technically legal to determine if there is a legal problem with that.  But I do appreciate the 2011 US Court of Appeals suggestions that ethics and perception becomes something to consider when payments are made to a public official.  Without the facts, it's improper to form an opinion.  The article was published in public space.  I publicly ask for the supporting detail and context on the topic of a lobbyist (and County Attorney) reportedly making payment to a judge.  If no payment was made or if the payment was proper, it's in Mr. Killian's best interest (and the unnamed judge's best interest) to clear the air - and we would owe that to our beloved County Attorney not to allow any tainting of his reputation and service in a public forum.


Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Sep 03, 2014 11:39

               Except in your own mind, you have "proven" no such things.





Posted by: Scott Lilly | Sep 03, 2014 12:05
Posted by: John C Sanderson | Sep 03, 2014 12:31

"... and we would owe that to our beloved County Attorney not to allow any tainting of his reputation and service in a public forum."


Mr. Lilly, saccharine quaintness in your commentary does nothing but detract from whatever message you wish to convey. I know Mr. Killian personally, and although I know nothing of his history of donating to various political causes and campaigns, I have always found him to be a friendly, competent, and decent person. For reasons of your own, quite obviously, you at least suspect otherwise. So, please refrain from using phraseology such as "our beloved County Attorney" when referring to Mr. Killian. Just say what you mean to say, and stop trying to couch your criticisms in a veneer of phony politeness.


Also, if you don't really have anything of substance to offer, how about simply disengaging from the unsubstantiated claims lodged by the letter writer, and allow whatever the facts may be to be determined through the appropriate channels? Then, when you actually have some factual information to deal with, feel free to form all the opinions you like.

Posted by: Scott Lilly | Sep 03, 2014 12:59

Mr. Sanderson, I should encourage everyone to be as polite as they can be.  That's the proper tone for public debate.  As genuine as my politeness is or isn't, indeed I am polite.


Are you also calling for public disclosure of the charges made?  Who will make the effort to substantiate the facts?  Without a public calling for them, do you feel The Mountaineer would do that?  I have heard rumblings in the community that if you cross the wrong people in power, you should expect retaliation.  Is The Mountaineer able to write critically of County Government?  Or would doing so risk retaliation from those in power? 


What are the "appropriate channels" to which you ambiguously refer?  Would that be regarding the Property Tax Commission clarification?  If that's the case, perhaps your advice should be directed to The Mountaineer for declaring the case "won".  Or regarding the suggested payments to a judge?  If that's the case, I'd like to know what the "proper channels" are.


If you know Mr. Killian personally, how would you explain his advice in the referenced matter about if the fairgrounds is a public body?  I do not know him.  I have seen no correction or reporting of the erroneous advice.  Did the "proper channels" fail us on that topic?


Posted by: Vicki Hyatt | Sep 03, 2014 14:24


I try to stay out of these type of discussions, but several points you have raised beg a response.

1. The story on the appeals court ruling made it clear the issue was headed back to the property tax commission. The headline used the word "won," but the reality was more complex and couldn't be expressed succinctly. I stand behind the word, though, since, had King won, this issue would have been resolved. Since he didn't win, who did that leave in a case involving both he and the county?

2) I take issue with you "proving" County Attorney Chip Killian gave faulty advice on the number of boards an individual could be elected or appointed to serve on. There were varying opinions on the issue, which I learned after contacting a number of individuals affiliated with the local government position. Who is to say which ones are right or wrong? Since the issue was a moot point with the individual in question's resignation from the fairgrounds board, it wasn't worth pursuing, in my opinion.

3) The King/Haywood County Court of Appeals case said nothing about improper campaign contributions from anyone to anyone.

Posted by: Scott Lilly | Sep 03, 2014 15:20

Ms. Hyatt:


1) Your story was filled with valuable data and facts.  I was glad to see that compiled in one place.  I think perhaps the most controversial part of the story was the use of the word "won" in the title.  I think the whole story is surmised in the sentence, "That means for the tax appeal to continue, King will need to ask the state commission to reconsider his case, something he said he is pursuing."  I am the last person to advise editing techniques that could cut that down to a short title - but perhaps "To be continued..." would have been more appropriate?


2) I agree the subject of the matter took the high road and therefore caused the issue to become moot.  But you did declare who was "right or wrong" when you weighed in with an article titled, "No law broken".  I offered evidence and context around Mr. Killian's advice being in error.  Nobody has discredited the evidence and context I offered.  Only that the issue became a non-issue after the condition no longer existed.  (Coincidentally, Mr. King was somehow associated with that story as well.)


3) Noted.  Mr. King's opinion piece referenced above that (in my opinion) ought not to be thrown around casually.  Recently I read someone publishing an opinion about the tax office treating them disrespectfully.  An appropriate editorial comment was made that suggested a little investigation resulted in the opinion being questionable.  If Mr. King has an opinion that something unethical occurred, may I suggest giving his opinion some kind of investigation similarly to what you did with the complaint of the tax office?


I get most all of my Waynesville News from the Mountaineer.  I am a big fan of your service and product.  Since the Mountaineer is really the only local game in town, it's an important part of keeping government in check.  Yes, that sounds ominous but with so much going wrong in big government (VA scandals, GSA people sipping wine in bathtubs, and IRS targeting) I feel the best thing we can do is keep our own small-town clean and proper.  We need citizen oversight on things like open meetings laws, determining what entities are government bodies, and governing responsibly so that things like improper spending or embezzlement cannot occur.  We count on you, The Mountaineer, to be a big part of that citizen oversight.  And yes, all of the feel-good reporting highlighting all the good in the government and community as well -- there's thankfully much more of that.


Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Sep 04, 2014 08:30

             Again, Mr. Lilly, you have "proven" nothing but the error of your own opinion.

             In case you haven't noticed, the county hired an outside attourney to represent them before the court. Nothing improper. But just like the false opinion that the IRS "targeted conservatives" nonsense, you still keep claiming a falsehood.

             The Mountaineer is not "the only game in town" either. Smoky Mountain News is also a very good source of news, etc. Between the two WE are very fortunate.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Sep 04, 2014 09:46

"the county hired an outside attourney to represent them before the court." -- How then is County Attorney, Chip Killian, associated with this issue?  Is there cooperation and collaboration between the County Attorney and the hired attorney on the matter?  What lobbyist/influence abilities does Chip Killian have with any judge?  (I just don't know how that works.)  If any payments are made from County Attorney and Registered Lobbyist, Chip Killian, would those payments be made as a County Attorney, a Lobbyist, or a private individual?  And what would happen if Mr. King asked the judge if he should make a matching contribution to his campaign?  Would that be considered bribery?  I really don't know how all this works but if I were facing a judge and I knew the other side to somehow be paying (or associated with paying) the judge, it would make me suspicious of an ethical issue.  And if I had any ability to have business before a judge, I wouldn't pay him anything -- just because it could look bad.  And if I were the judge, I wouldn't take money from someone who would have business before me -- just because it could look bad.


Am I asking improper questions here?  Does anyone have a full understanding of this issue?  What are the "proper channels" that would vet this, Mr. Sanderson?

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