Maggie mayor complaint dismissed
The Haywood County Sheriff’s Office recently dismissed a complaint accusing Maggie Valley Mayor Ron DeSimone of willfully failing to discharge his duties, forgery and false pretense.
Maggie Valley resident Harry Katt sent the complaint to the sheriff’s office in May. The nine-page document accuses DeSimone of signing and sending a letter to Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin, in support of the proposed increase to the Haywood County occupancy tax without the approval of the board.
The Maggie Valley town board approved a resolution supporting the higher bed tax at one point, but in a later vote, the board was split 2 to 2.
After Davis stated he wouldn’t support the bill until all parties were in consensus, DeSimone approached lodging owners in Maggie and collected support letters from 64 percent of the rooms in town and delivered them to Davis on March 26 during Town Hall Day in Raleigh. The complainants claim that this was all done without discussion with the board of aldermen.
The complainants also claim the letter of support DeSimone gave Davis was a forged document because it didn’t have the real Maggie Valley letterhead.
“It is alleged that Mayor DeSimone knowingly and willfully acted outside of his lawful scope of authority when he signed and delivered that document to Senator Jim Davis,” the complaint stated, “…with the intent to create and/or support a false pretense to fraudulently and corruptly influence Senator Davis and the North Carolina General Assembly in regard to this tax bill.”
By sending the letter without the board of aldermen’s approval, the complainants stated that the mayor violated his oath of office and overreached his scope of authority.
“The mayor’s position lawfully entails additional “administrative” responsibilities but does not authorize him/her to conduct town business autonomously without the consensus of the council members,” according to the complainant.
Katt, a veteran law enforcement officer, said he felt like the issues being brought up during the Maggie board meetings and the accusations against the mayor needed to be brought to the attention of outside law enforcement. He first called the State Bureau of Investigations but was referred back to local law enforcement. He said he finally had to call the sheriff’s office after the district attorney’s office wouldn’t take a complaint from a citizen.
“My complaint isn’t the tax, my complaint is a town official misrepresenting the town,” he said.
Captain Bruce Warren with the sheriff’s office wrote a letter to the complainant on June 21 stating that he, Sheriff Greg Christopher, District Attorney Mike Bonfoey, N.C. State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Jim Schandaval and Chief Deputy Jeff Haynes reviewed the materials submitted. According to the letter, Bonfoey found no evidence of criminal activity in the materials provided and declined any prosecution.
“The use of specific letterhead, in and of itself, does not meet the elemental criteria of forgery,” Warren wrote. “The stated content of the correspondence reveals that Mr. DeSimone is clearly requesting support on his own behalf and not of anyone or any governing body.”
Katt said the process of filing the complaint and the end result were frustrating. While the sheriff’s office stated there was no evidence, he said the point of an investigation is to find evidence.
“If they had done their due diligence… they would have been able to listen to audiotapes from the meetings where (DeSimone) admits to writing the letter as mayor,” he said. “It was clearly under the color of office, so I don’t understand how they can come off with that statement.”
Alderman Phillip Wight, who has brought up the same concerns detailed in the complainant during town meetings, said it seemed to be more than enough evidence to charge the mayor.
“There’s obviously two different letterheads and by his own action he has betrayed the public’s trust… that’s no way to run a government,” he said. “And he didn’t have the board’s approval. It’s in no one’s best interest when we bypass processes in place to keep this from happening.
“It’s obviously a cover up at the county level and a misrepresentation of justice not to even have an investigation,” he said.
DeSimone said he wrote the letter on his own behalf and he had every right to do so. He added that Katt was disgruntled because he wouldn’t support some of his causes, including when Katt and Wight argued that a Maggie Valley Cops Grant was a fraud.
“He was also in favor of disbanding the police department and handing it back over to the county, and I wouldn’t support that,” DeSimone said.
Katt said he did question the grant and supported disbanding the police department, “but that has nothing to do with me filing the complaint.”
Wight said DeSimone did have a right to send a letter on his own behalf but argued that the letter he sent to Davis was speaking for all of Maggie.
“Not one time in the letter does it say ‘I’ – it says ‘we,’” Wight said.
DeSimone wrote in the letter that, “We have reached a consensus of what we believe would best serve the County as a whole.”
“We sincerely appreciate all of you efforts on our behalf and apologize in advance for the small minority that feels as though they must oppose any positive measure,” he wrote.
Alderman Mike Matthews said he found it was strange how easy it was for forgery and fraud charges to be brought against Maggie Valley resident Joe Maniscalco while the sheriff’s office and district attorney refuse to pursue the same kind of charges against DeSimone.
“It’s not equal justice for all,” he said. “But there’s still people looking at it — it’s not the end of it by any means.”