Maggie officials suspended

By Jessi Stone Assistant editor | Sep 25, 2013
Photo by: Jessi Stone Audrey Hager, Maggie Valley Festival Grounds Director, speaks to the board of aldermen about the Matt Stillwell concert.

Maggie Valley Festival Grounds Director Audrey Hager and Town Manager Tim Barth were both suspended with pay by the board of aldermen on Tuesday following a two-hour closed session.

At issue is about $16,000 the town paid for a concert at the festival grounds which was rained out and ended up losing money. The concert promoter, Charlie Meadows, is on the festival grounds board and is an alderman candidate.

Town leaders said they had no idea the town advanced funds for the event.

A special-called meeting Tuesday focused on the Aug. 10, Matt Stillwell concert and events leading up to it. After discussing the issue for about an hour, the board voted to go into closed session to discuss personnel matters. While residents from the audience wanted to have public comment, Mayor Ron DeSimone would not allow it.

“We’re not taking public comment on this issue — this is a board discussion,” he said.

The vote to enter closed session passed 3-1 with Alderman Phillip Wight opposing.

“I’m not in favor of going into closed session when people have comments,” he said.

Members of the audience were also against the closed session.

“I object to a closed session because you’re not going into closed session to discuss personnel,” yelled Jay Ring from the back of the room.

After being in closed session for two hours, the board unanimously suspended Barth and Hager until the special-called meeting is reconvened at 6 p.m. Oct. 2. The board hopes to have more financial information at that point about the concert from Shayne Wheeler, the town's financial director. Another closed session will be held at 9 a.m. Friday morning during a called board meeting.

The concert financials were called into question last month when residents voiced opposition to the town using tax dollars to front the costs. The event promoter Charlie Meadows, who is also an alderman candidate and member of the festivals advisory committee, signed a contract with the town on Aug. 9 stating he would “pay all expenses paid by the Town of Maggie Valley on behalf of the Matt Stillwell concert.”

While the board agreed to allow the concert to be held at the festival grounds, aldermen and DeSimone claimed they were unaware the town was paying all the costs upfront.

Hager told the board she found out July 26 that the state alcohol permit application for the event was rejected because it stated the alcohol sales would be split — 70 percent going to the promoter and 30 percent to the town. The ABC board said the concert would have to be “presented” by the town and the town would have to keep 100 percent of the alcohol proceeds to receive a permit.

“We spent money in July (for advertising) but the contract is from Aug. 9,” Wight said. “Why didn’t it come to the board?”

Hager said she didn’t report to the board — she reported directly to Barth. When she got the permit denial, she said she got approval from Barth to resubmit the permit application with the needed changes.

“We had already committed to expenses at that time so the town would have lost money,” she said. “I got approval from Tim to place advertising through the town — we’ve done that for other promoters.” She added that she would prefer to talk about the issue in closed session.

Alderman Mike Matthews said he was unclear about what the board could discuss in open session and what needed to wait until closed session. Town Attorney Chuck Dickson offered no clarification.

Wight said Meadows received his bill for the concert the Monday, the day before the meeting, and may question some of his expenses.

Meadows told the board he and Hager had a verbal agreement that the alcohol sales would go toward covering the expenses of the concert. However, the $4,000 in alcohol revenue was not subtracted from the final bill he received from the town for about $11,000. He said he should not be responsible for paying any of the expenses paid by the town before he signed the contract on Aug. 9.

“If you do me dirty, I’m going to do you dirty,” Meadows told the board.

Hager said she thought she made the best decision to make the town money with the concert and there wasn’t time to have a vote by the board.

“Sometimes you make decisions and they don’t always go the right way,” she said. “I apologize that the board didn’t know but truthfully this was a very small window of opportunity — if it hadn’t rained it was a no brainer.”

According to town documents, the concert was anticipated to sell about 2,000 tickets, only 493 tickets were sold.

Wight asked Hager who else was aware of the new permitting implications.

Hager said she had a discussion in the clerk’s office with Barth.

“Who else was in the room?” Wight questioned.

Hager said DeSimone and Jim Blyth, a Maggie Valley resident, were also in the office.

DeSimone admitted he and Blyth were in the office. But he said all he gathered from the conversation was that the town would have to apply differently for ABC permits because of a new state board. Since Blyth has assisted the town in drafting legislation before, DeSimone said he and Blyth were discussing whether the permit process could be improved through legislation.

“I only thought the impact was to go through the town,” he said. “Any other implications were not stated.”

Comments (6)
Posted by: Allen Alsbrooks | Sep 26, 2013 01:07

The only reason this is being blown up now is Charlie Meadows is running for the vacant Alderman seat. The first person to complain is a lodging owner who has an interest in another candidate vying for a seat up for reelection.

Fact: "The town" has paid advertising for events on many occasions to help promoters/events obtain better rates.

Fact: "The town" has submitted applications for alcohol permits for  promoters/events for years and they were approved. The proceeds were often split with the town receiving a portion. Nothing new. What is new.. The way rules in place are now interpreted by the folks in Raleigh.

Fact: When I arrived at the beautiful Maggie Valley Festival Grounds at 10 PM for the concert I counted no fewer than 35 persons behind the fence at the back of the grounds watching the concert. Why were these individuals allowed to watch the concert without paying?

Fact: The Mayor lied when he stated he was not in the office when the alcohol license issue became known. He continually denied being present for approximately 45 minutes. He even became argumentative with a citizen who stated he knew the mayor was in the office. It was only after the Festival Director "reminded" the mayor he was there along with another citizen did he finally admit to being in the same room when the alcohol permit issue was discussed with town employees. And then his recollection of the discussion was self-serving.

Fact: The town manager and festival director were suspended for not exactly telling the whole truth. The mayor, once again, escapes with no punishment for his blatant lying.

Fact: The concert was great. We had visitors spending their money in our town. They ate in our restaurants. They slept in our lodging facilities.

 

We should be spending far more time thanking them for coming to our town.



Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Sep 26, 2013 08:10

       Information regarding alcohol permits is here:      

http://abc.nc.gov/permits/special.aspx

 

        Apparrently, because of the fees/moneys going to the performers instead of a not for profit, the permit was denied.

        Perhaps Maggie needs to set up a not for profit entity to avoid such a fiasco again.

 

        But then the "tea-baggers" would have a fit over "more government".

 

         Chuck Z.



Posted by: Allen Alsbrooks | Sep 26, 2013 09:04

Apparently you are clueless again.

 

The permit was not denied because the proceeds were going to the "performers." No money was going to the performer. The promoter and town were to share the money. Thus the reason for the denial.

Previous applications, over the last 7 years I have been a resident of Maggie Valley, have been submitted to Raleigh under the same circumstances. Raleigh approved those applications.

What has happened under a new chain of command the folks in Raleigh apply those same rules differently.

A "not-for-profit" doesn't necessarily need to be established as proven by the second application which Raleigh did approve. The second application listed the town as the permit holder with no "profit-sharing."

Please pay attention. Better yet come out of your wife's basement become involved. You wouldn't come across as being so foolish.



Posted by: Ron & Joann DeSimone | Sep 26, 2013 10:09

Apparently Mr. Alsbrooks doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “fact”; a truth known by actual experience or observation.  Mr. Alsbrook was not present to observe the conversation or the closed session meeting that he purports to derive his “facts” from.   The Town Manager and Festival Director are suspended while facts are being gathered, which is what one does before determining what the truth is and/or making accusations.  It might also be a good idea to sort out the cost of the event, and who actually paid for it, before we start thanking anyone.  Perhaps Mr. Alsbrook should investigate the word “supposition”; an assumption or hypothesis.



Posted by: Allen Alsbrooks | Sep 26, 2013 22:43

It does not matter who "paid" for an event. The fact people came to our town, ate in our restaurants, spent the night in our lodging facilities is enough reason for me to than them for their efforts.

 

Now, Mr. Mayor, as for my statement regarding your denial of being present in an office at Maggie Valley Town Hall with staff and a citizen regarding the alcohol permit you are correct. I was not at town hall on that day in July. However, recall I was at the meeting Tuesday night sitting on the front row first chair left of the podium almost directly in front of you. You continued to deny your presence in that discussion until the Festival Director said "I'm sorry Ron but you were there in the office" (paraphrased until I can get a transcript of the meeting). It was not long after that when you finally admitted to being in the office at the time of the discussion.  This was only a few minutes before the meeting went into closed session.

 

Now, since you want to question my recollection of the public meeting held on 24 September 2013, which I find ironic, I will be more than happy to listen to the recording of the meeting with you. If my facts are incorrect I am man enough to apologize on the spot as well as in public. But, until then I stand firm in my comments.



Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Sep 28, 2013 10:08

     Again, here is the site for one time special occaision permits:      

http://abc.nc.gov/permits/special.aspx

    

       Apparently alsbrookes either cannot read and understand plain english or is just too assinine to care about following the rules as clearly stated which makes quite clear that it does indeed "matter who paid for the event."

        Maggie could have avoided this controversy altogether if they had abided by what was legally required of them. Past compliance or noncompliance is irrelevant. Special one time only permits should be self-explanatory to anyone not having their head up their arse.

       

          Mr. alsbrookes, Barbara and I own our house outright and together. Along with everything else, we share. Excapt that, she owns her chopped Sportster that I built, outright. I a hardtail chopper. If it's any of your buisness.

 

          Chuck Zimmerman.



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