Maggie aldermen disagree on banning resident

By Jessi Stone | Feb 14, 2013
Photo by: File Maggie Valley board members questioned Ron DeSimone's authority to send a second letter to a town resident banning him from town hall.

The Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen went into a closed session Feb. 12 following a regular meeting to discuss a letter sent to resident Joe Maniscalco banning him from Town Hall.

The issue almost caused a fight during the meeting as both sides stated their opinions on the matter. Aldermen Phillip Wight and Michael Matthews asked for the item to be placed on the agenda to consider rescinding a letter sent to Maniscalco without the board’s approval.

The Jan. 11 letter was approved by Mayor Ron DeSimone and sent by Police Chief Scott Sutton, stating that Maniscalco was "banned and trespassed from further visits to Maggie Valley Town Hall" unless his presence met certain conditions.

According to the letter, he must have legitimate business to conduct at Town Hall and make a 24-hour request in advance to the police department. The request must be approved by Sutton and then Maniscalco must be accompanied by a police officer.

"If you fail to maintain a courteous, civil, business-friendly demeanor in the judgement of the escort officer, you will not be authorized to remain on Town Hall campus," the letter stated.

The letter stated that failure to comply may have legal consequences, including criminal arrest for trespassing.

Maniscalco spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting and asked DeSimone to explain why he was banned from Town Hall in January only days after he sent a letter out introducing himself as a candidate for alderman.

“I believe you know why,” DeSimone responded. He claimed Maniscalco violated the agreement the board approved.

Maniscalco said he was a taxpaying citizen and the only thing he was guilty of was speaking his mind during public meetings.

"I plan on running for alderman on issues to help the town and I don't understand why I'm barred from Town Hall," he said. "I'm 75 years old. I've never had a blemish of any kind in my life. I was a constable officer in the state of New Jersey and I want to know why I've been barred from Town Hall."

Wight said the board approved sending Maniscalco a letter in November asking him to call an alderman or a law enforcement officer prior to making a visit to Town Hall. However, he said DeSimone sent him the second letter without the board’s input.

Alderman Saralyn Price said the board approved sending the first letter and stated that if he didn’t comply then further action would be taken.

“What gives the mayor that authority?” Matthews asked. “His vote is the same as mine.”

“I think he has more authority than you think he does,” Price said.

Wight and Matthews said they were in the process of reviewing those meeting minutes to see what was approved.

Colin Edwards, a former alderman, told the board he agreed with banning Maniscalco from Town Hall.

“He has terrorized the staff,” Edwards said, as he held up a stack of emails Maniscalco has sent to employees. He claimed Maniscalco was making false allegations against staff members, including accusing them of looking at porn while at work.

"That's true," Maniscalco shouted from the audience. He then asked for a chance to respond to Edwards, but DeSimone denied him the opportunity.

Maniscalco continued to approach the podium toward Edwards, which is when the two men had to be separated by law enforcement officers. Edwards left the meeting, but Maniscalco stayed.

Price said she would like for the board to go into a closed session to discuss the letters sent to Maniscalco.

“I don’t see any need to do that,” Matthews said. “It’s already out in the open.” He added that the mayor should not have sent the second letter without it coming before the board again. He asked Town Attorney Chuck Dickson if DeSimone had that authority.

Dickson said he hadn’t seen the letter. He recommended going into a closed session if the board wanted legal advice. He also recommended aldermen not respond to Maniscalco because he had made litigation threats against the town in the past.

No decision came out of the closed session.

In other business, the board:

  • Approved awarding an audit contract to Martin Starnes & Associates
  • Approved a resolution to opposing legislation that provides for the forced taking of a municipal water system.
  • Approved a $10,000 contract with Zambelli Fireworks for the town’s July 4 fireworks show.
  • Approved three signs for the Parham Memorial Park.
  • Appointed Jay Manner to the Maggie Valley 1% TDA Subcommittee.
  • Set a budget workshop for 9 a.m. Feb. 28 at Town Hall.