Maggie alderman will replace town's tourism board representative

Decision made mid-appointment; suprise to Edwards
By Jessi Stone Assistant editor | Feb 28, 2014
Photo by: File photo Robert Edwards, Maggie Valley's representative on the Tourist Development Authority, speaks about the proposed occupancy tax increase at a board of aldermen meeting last year.

In a 4-1 vote, Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen approved a request to change its appointee to the Haywood County Tourist Development Authority.

Newly elected Alderman Mike Eveland brought up the issue during “other business” at Wednesday’s regular board meeting. Even though the specific item wasn’t on the agenda, Eveland said he would like to discuss the town’s appointment to the TDA  —the board that makes the decisions about how occupancy tax revenue is spent.

“Most municipalities use someone on the board or the town manager (as their representative),” he said. “I feel like it’s a great opportunity to make a change there that will allow us to have one of us on the board.”

Mayor Ron DeSimone said he thought it was a good idea to have one of the board members serving on the TDA. He said the town's representative should represent the interest of the board and not lodging owners or residents.

Robert Edwards, owner of The Holiday Motel in Maggie Valley, currently serves as the town’s representative. Edwards vocally supported the proposed occupancy tax increase put forth last year because it would only be used to improve tourism-related infrastructure. But he recently said he had concerns about the proposal at a February TDA meeting.

Edwards questioned whether the proposal to increase the occupancy tax on lodging owners from 4 percent to 6 percent had to be done during the upcoming short session. He also said there was opposition in Maggie Valley because people were concerned about how the additional revenue would be managed and suggested the TDA clear up any misconceptions before trying to pass the legislation.

With the exception of Alderman Phillip Wight, the board of aldermen is in favor of getting the occupancy tax legislation passed this year.

Wight said he trusted the town’s representative and didn’t want to remove him from the TDA just because the board wants to insert its political stance into the conversation.

“Maybe the person we have needs to understand he represents us,” Wight said. “But I don’t know if we should replace him.”

Eveland said the decision wasn’t a reflection on Edwards.

“I just think we need to be more directly involved” in the TDA," he said.

Alderman Saralyn Price was also in favor of changing the appointment so the board can have a better idea of what is going on with the TDA.

Alderman Janet Banks made a motion recommending the appointment of Eveland to serve as the town’s representative on the TDA and it passed 4-1 with Wight opposed.

Town Manager Nathan Clark said the recommendation would be sent to TDA Executive Director Lynn Collins who will then present the recommendation to the Haywood County Board of Commissioners for a final decision.

“I think it’s appropriate and I trust Mike to represent the majority opinion of this board,” DeSimone said.

Wight said he was opposed to removing a qualified person from that board so the town could assert more control over the TDA.

“He’s doing a fine job,” he said. “Possibly I’d say yes if his (term) was up, but I can’t go that far.”

When reached for comment Thursday morning, Edwards said no elected officials in Maggie had contacted him about his appointment. He declined further comment until he has a chance to discuss the matter with the town.

Before Eveland's appointment takes effect, it must be approved by the Haywood County Board of Commissioners.

Comments (11)
Posted by: Scott Lilly | Feb 28, 2014 17:15

"He said the town's representative should represent the interest of the board and not lodging owners or residents." -- Hmmm.  Doesn't the Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen represent the interests of residents -- and lodging owners for that matter?  What am I misunderstanding here?



Posted by: Allen Alsbrooks | Mar 02, 2014 09:40

The irony of the whole issue is Mr. Edwards does support the 50% increase in taxes on the backs of our tourists. He has represented Maggie Valley interests well.  It just so happens he and his family own a lodging facility in our beautiful valley. The town chose Mr. Edwards and his service was allowed to proceed by the county commissioners. This is only a power grab.

I find a few things odd about the whole thing. One thing is the way this issue came about. This was conducted as "Other Business" with the person being removed having no chance to address the issue before the board. How sneaky is that.  The first knowledge he had was when a reporter called him asking what he felt about the removal. Another is the person who brought the issue up is the one they are sending to the commissioners to replace Mr. Edwards.  If that doesn't scream foul and dirty politics nothing does.

The final insult is the claim from the mayor: "Mayor Ron DeSimone said he thought it was a good idea to have one of the board members serving on the TDA. He said the town's representative should represent the interest of the board and not lodging owners or residents.?  Well... the person they selected is associated with the largest independent lodging facility in town!! HELLO.  So we can't allow a citizen who has represented us well to continue to serve and finish their term before throwing them off the board and replace them with an elected official who represents the largest independent motel in town?  If you want to choose anyone NOT affiliated with a lodging business then Ms. Price or Ms. Banks would be better choice as neither of them are lodging owners.

This just doesn't pass the "smell" test in any way. But these are the people you elected to run things.



Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Mar 02, 2014 10:29

               Give 'em Hell, Mr. Alsbrooks!

 

                C.Z.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Mar 03, 2014 07:37

"If that doesn't scream foul and dirty politics nothing does." -- Typically when I see honest and legitimate public bodies function, they try very hard to avoid circumstances that can be interpreted as "dirty politics".  And when it is unavoidable, the issue is actively managed to mitigate any resulting opinions that might be unfairly made to assure the public that it's not "dirty politics".  Perhaps this collection of public officials in Maggie Valley is just not well-versed in the matters of public policy and public policy etiquette.  Or perhaps they have trouble learning how to manage politics correctly/admirably after years of something other than that.



Posted by: Allen Alsbrooks | Mar 03, 2014 11:59

The point is the person occupying the position has done a fine job and is barely half way through his term.

The irony is the person who brought the issue up is the person they are going to send to replace the current occupant. You can't honestly tell me this wasn't a done deal already prepared before the meeting.

The stab in the back is the person was thrown off the TDA without his knowledge.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Mar 03, 2014 12:27

"You can't honestly tell me this wasn't a done deal already prepared before the meeting." -- If an Alderman writes an e-mail, calls, or meets with two or more other Alderman on a 5-person Board (even for a cup of coffee), is that considered an illegal meeting as per the open meeting laws?  I once participated in a group that asked we not have contact with more than one member outside of the public meeting forum in order to avoid this kind of thing.  That was an interesting dynamic that made meetings longer because all the discussion around any decision was done in the meeting.  It wasn't like regular business meetings where you get support for your idea before the meeting.



Posted by: Allen Alsbrooks | Mar 03, 2014 19:18

Such a gathering or communication would be considered illegal. Unfortunately gathering such proof is difficult.  The aldermen use their personal cellphones and E-mail accounts and don't necessarily fall subject to requests under FOIA.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Mar 03, 2014 21:26

"Such a gathering or communication would be considered illegal." -- So does anyone know if the Maggie Valley Alderman know this?  Do incoming Alderman get an instruction manual when they are elected?  "Newly elected Alderman Mike Eveland" could mean he didn't know the rules.  (Mentioned in regards to a possible explanation to the suggestion: "You can't honestly tell me this wasn't a done deal already prepared before the meeting." -- not as an accusation that willful illegal activity was occurring.)

 

I ask this question with all due respect:

http://themountaineer.villagesoup.com/p/maggie-adopts-new-meeting-rules/1101911

Apparently the board doesn't have much experience with respecting rule of order.  How prolific was Mr. Wright's vision:

 

"Alderman Phillip Wight said he had an issue with the wording of some of the rules, including adding items to the agenda after the agenda was set. He said the point of setting the agenda ahead of time was to give the board time to research an issue before the meeting and to give the public an opportunity to speak on the issue."

 

Wow.

 

 



Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Mar 04, 2014 11:34

                 There most certainly are rules and regulations that elected boards representing We the people must abide by, whether they like it or not. In this republic, it is the responsability of those being represented that their representatives follow and abide by such rules and regulations, by force of the law if neccessary. Be forwarned. Barb and I are here because we stood up to the shenanigans of the local county commisioners, the head of which took particular action and after fact said "I'm the head of the county commisioners, I don't need approval to do what I want".(Bought a farm adjoining sire's, sold to a gravel pit I and neighbors in a two mile radius had been remonstrating against for 25 years)  He also was quoted as claiming "I don't need the ACLU telling me the jail is overcrowded". Apparrently he did. There had been a study paid for by US to document overcrowding two years previous, with no action done and lawsuits against US because of the overcrowding. A former sherrif alerted me to the study. I got a copy and sent it to the ICLU who was representing the prisoners. Case closed. County had to address and respond by eliminating the problem, pay ICLU's costs and endure monitoring.

                This board had a long standing habit of meeting outside of the courthouse to discuss issues whereby the issues were alreddy settled before hand with owner of local newspaper as well as billy graham crowd wielding much power. billy graham was forced to leave area and newspaper owner died. Board would try and meet behind closed doors. I would arrive early and take a seat preventing violation of "Sunshine laws". A local woman tied to pat robertsons network began attending and as was documented, bringing treats and "helping" out. We had remonstrated against an unneccessay "aldult ordinance" for several years. All of a sudden, the local paper had this woman's picture on the front page with a story telling of her heroic efforts to stop smut, etc. The ordinance had alreddy been passed. She had been given the job of putting the notice of proposed countybuisness in the papers. The required notice only stated "usual buisness". I was in the field at the time and decided not to go. The strip club that was the target of "her", had previously been ruled to be in compliance with all laws and  ruled constitutionally protected by the court from which the last Supreme Court ruling had come. The judge asked"Why are the good citizens of North Webster in my court wasting my time"? Cost taxpayers of the little town of North Webster $33,000.00. Didn't stop "her" from trying to convince N.W. town board to "go again". The owner of the strip club's banker/girlfriend(possible) was on the board and voted to shut the club down while at the same time loaning him money to refurbish the club and buy another in another town. Incredibly(sp), boards attourney stood up and said "their the board of North Webster. They can do whatever they want". This was after I had informed board of the legal ramifications using facts of precedence of which they had no idea. A prominent local attourney took board's attourney to the side and explained their error while board's attourney glared at me. He then counseled with the board and issue was dropped. As time passed, county commisioners changed leadership and having been fed up with "her" constant complaining about advertising sign for strip club, met and had lunch at strip club and advised to use brighter lightage on sign. "She" gave up.

                In the first attempt to close "Cruisers" there had been many local lawers chime in advising N.W. board to go forward. A local judge advised "Case will be in my court" go for it. My lawyer at the time chimed in with the claim previously made about ACLU being a "paper tiger". Changed lawyer. Case went to Federal court of Allen Sharpe in South Bend. ACLU don't use local courts. Civil rights are federally protected by US Constitution. All inferior courts, boards, etc must abide by the equal protection of its citizens civil rights. You all might remind locals of that.

 

                C.Z.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Mar 04, 2014 11:58

"This board had a long standing habit of meeting outside of the courthouse to discuss issues" -- I think this is an accusation that illegal meetings are occurring.  (Or at least have occurred.)  If there is a willingness of breaking the law and at the risk of sounding mean-spirited, the question might be asked, "Is this a jail-able offense?"  Does the Board have counsel that advises them on such things?



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Mar 04, 2014 12:29

I guess I could have answered my own question.  Violation of open meeting laws do not cause civil/criminal penalties.  But there are penalties.  This is interesting reading on the matter:

 

http://www.wardandsmith.com/articles/the-north-carolina-open-meetings-law-what-members-of-governing-boards-and-citizens-need-to-know

 

If the board is 5 members, any time three of them communicate together outside of a proper forum, they put themselves and the board at risk of consequences.  A responsible board would simply not meet together for any reason outside the proper forum without plenty of witnesses that could attest to all of the conversation going on.  Again, I was advised once that even phone calls and e-mails could present problems.

 



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