FREEDOM OF SPEECH – PART TWO

In my opinion.

Note – all documentation is in blue and can be clicked on for viewing.

Recap –  On December seventh and eighth of 2018 the Town Council held a mini planning conference.  During the December 8th meeting Mayor Paul Bailey and Commissioners Jeff Miller, John Urban, Chris Melton, Kress Query and Barbara Dement all voted in support to silence the voice of the people.  Why?   As stated by Mayor Paul Bailey, “I don’t appreciate the behavior I’ve seen from some of our citizens in the past year that I’ve never seen before”  with Commissioner Kress Query agreeing that “at some point in time the mayor needs to shut people down if necessary.”

Below, in blue, are the approved minutes and rough draft notes for the 12-8-2018 discussion of Ethics by the Mayor and Commissioners.   I encourage you to read the rough draft notes and then the approved minutes.  What are rough draft notes and approved minutes?  Rough draft notes are the actual notes taken during the meeting and the approved minutes are what the Mayor and Commissioners approved for public records. 

12-8-2018 Ethics rough draft notes       

12-8-2018 Special meeting approved minutes – Ethics

Were you able to see how citizens are/have been mislead and did you notice Commissioner Jeff Miller’s “idiot” comment concerning his neighbor was deleted in the approved minutes?  So much for transparency.

On January 14, 2019 during the Board of Commissioners meeting the Mayor and Commissioners discussed a draft phrasing for a Public Comment Policy.  In other words, Mayor Paul Bailey and Commissioners Jeff Miller, John Urban, Chris Melton, Kress Query and Barbara Dement want a statement to be read before public comment which could intimidate some from speaking therefore could suppress their First Amendment Right of Freedom of Speech.  Mayor Pro Tem John Higdon was the only commissioner voicing his disapproval and spoke in favor of the citizen’s and their right to freedom of speech. 

During public comment of the January 14th Board of Commissioners meeting I and a citizen of Matthews, Mark Tofano, exercised our First Amendment Right.  It’s pretty crappy when someone has to get out of bed when they are sick and drive to the Town Hall and fight for the First Amendment, but when we have Mayor Paul Bailey and Commissioners Jeff Miller, John Urban, Chris Melton, Kress Query and Barbara Dement who want to silence the voice of the people, well I took offense gathered my thoughts and made myself heard.

My statement – “On December 11, 2017 all of you swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of North Carolina and by not doing so you swore “I will faithfully discharge the duties of my office.”

The first ten amendments to the Constitution were ratified effective on December 15, 1791 and these are known as the Bill of Rights.  In amendment one it states – “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assembly, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

“Tonight you will discussing your policy to be read before public comment.  In this statement it states “we ask that all speakers be respectful and refrain from defamation of character.”

“According to Blacks Law Dictionary – Defamation is the act of harming the reputation of another by making a false statement to a third party.”

“Because you do not “appreciate the behavior of some citizens” is not defamation of character.  Nor is it defamation when a citizen comes forward with his/her concerns of behavior, ethics, financial profit or actions taken by anyone on this council.  We have the right to petition the Government.  In the mini conference draft notes it is noted that Mayor Bailey stated “We have the freedom to say what we think and believe.”  We the people also have that right.  So when you have decided to abridge a citizens comment, their freedom of speech, not only have you violated the First Amendment you have also violated your oath therefore leading for you to faithfully discharge yourself from office.”

Mark Tofano’s comment –  “On December 12 I sent an email to the elected officials and staff that were present at the Dec 8 mini conference that was held in this room expressing the profound sadness that I felt as a result of listening to the disturbing discussions which related to the desire of our mayor and some commissioners to have a statement read prior to the public comment portion of the town board meetings.”

“In that email, I urged that the announcement would be strictly procedural and that there would not be any words included that could possibly be construed as limiting free speech.”

“On January 9, Assistant Town Manager Becky Hawke authored a letter that proposed test that would be used as the announcement.  There is wording in this proposed announcement that causes me great concern.”

“The wording,  “….all speakers be respectful and refrain from defamation of character”.

“Defamation of character is a legal matter, determined by the courts, not arbitrarily by a political figure.  In the landmark case of New York Times v. Sullivan in 1964 the US Supreme Court held that certain defamatory statements were protected by the first amendment.  The court stated that there must be “a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open.”

“The bar for measuring defamatory statements made about public figures is much higher than for private citizens.  For a statement made about a public figure to be deemed defamatory, it must be proven that it was mad with “actual malice”.

“To stop a citizen from speaking on the basis that you judge it to be defamatory is not only depriving that citizen of their first amendment right but, at the same time is a defamatory statement in itself.”

“The wording,  “…..each speaker will have up to four minutes”.

“The four minute rule was put in place by a vote of this board ONLY if it was used as a guideline, not as a finite period of time.  However, on more than one occasion, a speaker has been interrupted when the four minutes was reached and on occasion the gavel was used to stop the speaker from uttering another word.”

“Using the four minute as a guideline, the speaker should be respectfully reminded that the four minutes had expired and then kindly asked if a few more moments are needed to complete a phrease or thought.”

“The wording,  “….Discussion between speakers and audience members is not permitted”.

“The definition of a discussion, according to the Cambridge dictionary, is “….the activity in which people talk about something and tell each other their ideas or opinions”.  Addressing the audience and making a comment is NOT a discussion.  Addressing the audience and speaking has been allowed and encouraged during public comment here in Matthews for a long time.”

“There will be claims that this proposed announcement was phrased in such a way as to reflect the announcements spoken at other governing bodies in the state.  What is said elsewhere is not what is important, it is what is said in Matthews that matters.”

“I ask, again, that announcement be purely procedural and that all other wording be removed.”

“There were many disparaging words spoken about the citizens of Matthews on December 8 by our elected official. But out of this dark moment there was only one dissenting voice among all of you and that was the voice of Mayor Pro Tem John Higdon when he stated “…I don’t think we should discourage the public from expressing their discontent with an opinion that anybody may have.  This may end up quashing public opinion, make people less likely to voice their displeasure with a position ….I think people should be able to say whatever they want.”

“The irony of it all is this is a town that states it is friendly to veterans, but at the same time its elected officials attempt to quell the very rights for which they fought and died.”

WOW!!! Nuff said.

After our statements Mayor Paul Bailey decided to put his spin on the meeting denying the Council did not discuss silencing the people, but if you listen to the audio you will hear the truth.  On February 11th by email I asked Mayor Paul Bailey and Commissioners when will the audio be available on the town website for the citizens of Matthews.  There has been no reply.  So… how can Mayor Paul Bailey and Commissioners keep the citizenry from learning the truth?  Simple, keep the audio from public records.  As of this posting March 4th, the audio is still not available on the town website.       

Later in the meeting the discussion on ethics and freedom of speech ensued.  Commissioner Kress Query constantly argued they were being personally attacked with not ONE example.  Commissioner Jeff Miller did not say a word.  Mayor Paul Bailey spoke of how he could not remember any citizen ever being denied their Constitutional right.  Interesting, well let me just refresh his memory of one example.  In 1992 Virginia Wright, of Matthews, learned of a issue with the town and went to the Town Hall to file a complaint.  Unfortunately she was unaware that the former Matthews Chief of Police had been instructed by Town Attorney Charles Buckley to keep her out of the Town Hall as noted in his affidavit.  The Town Hall is a public building bought and paid for by taxpayer funds so Mrs. Wright had every right to enter the Town Hall and file a complaint.  Keeping Mrs. Wright from entering the Town Hall, in my opinion, is a BIG fat YES in violating her Constitutional right.     

Police Chief Ronnie Morris Affidavit

The discussion of ethics and freedom of speech came to an end with Mayor Bailey and Commissioners deciding to discuss this at a later date.  Funny but I have a feeling this will not be on the agenda anytime soon.  It’s an election year.

FYI – If the Wright name sounds familiar you may remember Town of Matthews v. Wright.  For twenty years the Wrights fought the town for their property rights.  Mayor Paul Bailey and Commissioners Jeff Miller, John Urban and Kress Query voted to condemn the Wrights property for the well-connected of Matthews as stated by  Judge Bridges of the NC Supreme Court who ruled the condemnation was “arbitrary and capricious”.  I found it interesting how Town Attorney Charles Buckley called Mrs. Wright a “nut case” as stated in former Police Chief Ronnie Morris’s affidavit.  Hmmm, Isn’t that a personal attack?  Furthermore, if Mrs. Wright is a “nut case” than why did she continue to win in in court?  Why did Judge Hunter of the NC Court of Appeals order the town to pay Mr. & Mrs. Wright their attorney fees of  $74,500.00 for 2015?  The condemnation of Mr. & Mrs. Wright property was just another lie by the Town.  Over 20 years spent pursuing this while spending over $250,000.00 of taxpayer funds.  Citizens were told the condemnation was for the “opening, widening, extending or improving roads, streets, alleys and sidewalks” when in fact this was not true as stated by Town Manager Hazen Blodgett in his deposition.   

Budget Ordinance Amendment

Hazen Blodgett Deposition pages 14-17

Please remember to support MATTHEWS WATCH by telling your friends and neighbors.

Thank you.  Gina Hoover

 

 

     

         

 

 

FREEDOM OF SPEECH

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

IN MY OPINION –

Welcome 2019 and for the citizens of Matthews, North Carolina we will be beginning our new year with our freedom of speech under attack.  On December seventh and eighth of 2018 the Town Council held a special meeting.  During the December 8, 2018 meeting Mayor Paul Bailey and Commissioners Jeff Miller, John Urban, Chris Melton, Kress Query and Barbara Dement all voted in support to silence the voice of the people.  Why?   As stated by Mayor Paul Bailey, “I don’t appreciate the behavior I’ve seen from some of our citizens in the past year that I’ve never seen before”  with Commissioner Kress Query agreeing that “at some point in time the mayor needs to shut people down if necessary.”   

In the Bill of Rights our founding fathers have addressed this issue.   Amendment I – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.  In the North Carolina State Constitution Article I Declaration of Rights Section 12 we “the people have a right to assemble together to consult for their common good” and “to instruct their representatives”.  Section 14 states “Freedom of speech and of the press are two of the great bulwarks of liberty and therefore shall never be restrained.”

IF there are any outrageous outbreaks during town meetings than yes it needs to be addressed, but this is not and has not been the case within Matthews Town meetings.  There have been NO outburst only citizens bringing forth their concerns ‘grievances’ with issues of the Town and Council members and in these concerns there have been NO PERSONAL attacks.  If Mayor Paul Bailey and Commissioners Jeff Miller, John Urban, Chris Melton, Kress Query and Barbara Dement are going to accuse the citizenry of “personal attacks” than shouldn’t there be evidence of this claim?  Questioning the Council for their actions while serving the public is not a personal attack, it is our duty as citizens to confront and hold them accountable.    

It was recently brought to light by a Matthews resident that the Red Brick Partnership of Matthews, which includes Commissioner John Urban as one of the founders, has received tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on an annual basis from Matthews and has claimed for years to be a non-profit but failed to file Form 1023 with the IRS to obtain it’s tax-exempt status thus leading to the request for Commissioner Urban to resign for misrepresentation of a non-profit.  Our tax dollars are used to fund Red Brick so shouldn’t this be a concern by the Council?   To bring this information forward is not a personal attack.  Commissioner John Urban has also financially profited from the development of the Town of Matthews while serving as a commissioner.  This a question of conflict of interest, not a personal attack. 

https://www.wsoctv.com/news/local/matthews-residents-want-commissioner-to-resign-over-misrepresentation-of-non-profit/849143994

https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2018/10/10/nonprofit-learns-to-pay-attention-the-hard-way/

Mayor Paul Bailey and Commissioners John Urban, Chris Melton, Kress Query and Barbara Dement were financially supported during the 2017 election by developer Garry Smith of Brookchase Properties who has a history in Matthews’ development and is also one of the founding members of Red Brick Partnership.  This led citizens questioning if this could affect the vote on August 13, 2018 for the development of twelve new homes to be built along the Greenway entrance on Trade Street.  This is a legitimate concern of favor, also known as pay to play, this is not a personal attack.   Oh and yes, Mayor Paul Bailey and Commissioners John Urban, Kress Query, Jeff Miller and Barbara Dement supported the vote.     

Note – Commissioner Barbara Dement has been omitted in the picture for receiving $500, but according to her campaign finance report it shows she also received $500 as well.

https://www.wsoctv.com/news/local/matthews-commissioners-to-consider-controversial-development-project-at-public-hearing/812042698

Mayor Paul Bailey has lied in using his Duke Energy email account for town business as did Commissioner Kress Query for using his private email account for town business.  So for these two partners in crime to even discuss how they do not appreciate the behavior of citizens is a joke.  These emails are public record and to hold them accountable is not a personal attack.

The decision to silence the people is not because of personal attacks.  This decision to silence the people by Mayor Paul Bailey and Commissioners John Urban, Jeff Miller, Kress Query, Chris Melton and Barbara Dement is because the eyes of the citizenry are being opened and they are seeing the favors, unethical behavior, frivolous spending, misuse of tax dollars, pay to play by this Town Council and have decided that enough is enough by peacefully bringing these matters to their attention.   

We the people have the right to “freedom of speech” and “to petition the Government for a redress of grievance”.  Mayor Paul Bailey and Commissioner Jeff Miller, John Urban, Chris Melton, Kress Query and Barbara Dement are public servants who have now decided to read an intimidating letter, to decide what is appropriate or inappropriate for a citizen to say and no one will be allowed to address citizens attending public meetings they can only address the council.  So to my understanding of the Bill of Rights Amendment One and the North Carolina State Constitution Section 14, this is a violation of our Freedom of Speech.  The Town Hall is a public building, bought and paid for by the citizens of Matthews. 

You will also see in the draft notes it is noted that Commissioner Jeff Miller stated “I don’t mind the criticism a bit, but speaking for my neighbor who recommended that John Urban resign, he was an idiot and it reflected more on him than anything else.  The criticisms against commissioner Urban from my neighbor were wrong.”  Interesting how Commissioner Miller can call his neighbor, citizen, taxpayer, voter an “idiot” and all is okay, but when genuine issues are presented to the Council by citizens which are backed by facts this Council screams they are being personally attacked.              

December 8, 2018 Ethics notes initials are only listed in notes, here is the listing – PB * Mayor Paul Bailey –  Commissioners – JH * John Higdon  JM * Jeff Miller  JU * John Urban  CM * Chris Melton  KQ * Kress Query  BD * Barbara Dement  CB * Town Attorney Charles Buckley  HB * Town Manager Hazen Blodgett

You may have noticed that Mayor Pro- Tem John Higdon has not been mentioned in this posting.  That is because he was the only person on Matthews Town Council to have a backbone in standing up and saying this is wrong.  Thank you Mayor Pro- Tem John Higdon for your support of the people.  

 

Please remember to support MATTHEWS WATCH by telling your friends and neighbors.  Thank you and Happy New Year!   Gina Hoover   

 

     

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

FYI – GREENWAY MEETING – The Town of Matthews and Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Departments will host a community information session to review a study for the greenway 7-mile corridor from 6:00 – 7:30pm on Wednesday, December 12, 2018 in the Hood Room, Matthews Town Hall.       

 

Christmas – is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25th as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world.  A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it is preceded by the season of Advent or the Nativity Fast and initiates the season of Christmas tide, which historically in the West lasts Twelve days and culminates on Twelfth Night; in some traditions, Christmastide includes an octave. Christmas Day is a public holiday in many of the world’s nations, is celebrated religiously by a majority of Christians, as well as culturally by many non-Christians, and forms an integral part of the holiday season centered around it.

The traditional Christmas narrative, the Nativity of Jesus, delineated in the New Testament says that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in accordance with messianic prophecies.  When Joseph and Mary arrived in the city, the inn had no room and so they were offered a stable where the Christ Child was soon born, with angels proclaiming this news to shepherds who then further disseminated the information.

Although the month and date of Jesus’ birth are unknown, by the early-to-mid fourth century the Western Christian Church had placed Christmas on December 25, a date that was later adopted in the East. Today, most Christians celebrate on December 25 in the Gregorian calendar, which has been adopted almost universally in the civil calendars used in countries throughout the world. However, some Eastern Christian Churches celebrate Christmas on December 25 of the older Julian calendar, which currently corresponds to January 7 in the Gregorian calendar, the day after the Western Christian Church celebrates the Epiphany. This is not a disagreement over the date of Christmas as such, but rather a preference of which calendar should be used to determine the day that is December 25. Moreover, for Christians, the belief that God came into the world in the form of man to atone for the sins of humanity, rather than the exact birth date, is considered to be the primary purpose in celebrating Christmas.

The celebratory customs associated in various countries with Christmas have a mix of pre-Christian, Christian, and secular themes and origins. Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift giving, completing an Advent calendar or Advent wreath, Christmas wreath, Christmas music and caroling, lighting a Christingle, viewing a Nativity play, an exchange of Christmas cards, church services, a special meal, pulling Christmas crackers and the display of various Christmas decorations, including Christmas trees, Christmas lights, nativity scenes, garlands, wreaths, mistletoe, and holly. In addition, several closely related and often interchangeable figures, known as Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, and Christkind, are associated with bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season and have their own body of traditions and lore. Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity, the holiday has become a significant event and a key sales period for retailers and businesses. The economic impact of Christmas has grown steadily over the past few centuries in many regions of the world.

Source – Wikipedia

 

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

 

“Freedom from Want, also known as The Thanksgiving Picture or I’ll Be Home for Christmas, is the third of the Four Freedoms series of four oil paintings by American artist Norman Rockwell. The works were inspired by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s 1941 State of the Union Address, known as Four Freedoms.

The painting was created in November 1942 and published in the March 6, 1943 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. All of the people in the picture were friends and family of Rockwell in ArlingtonVermont, who were photographed individually and painted into the scene. The work depicts a group of people gathered around a dinner table for a holiday meal. Having been partially created on Thanksgiving Day to depict the celebration, it has become an iconic representation for Americans of the Thanksgiving holiday and family holiday gatherings in general. The Post published Freedom from Want with a corresponding essay by Carlos Bulosan as part of the Four Freedoms series. Despite many who endured sociopolitical hardships abroad, Bulosan’s essay spoke on behalf of those enduring the socioeconomic hardships domestically, and it thrust him into prominence.

The painting has had a wide array of adaptations, parodies, and other uses, such as for the cover for the 1946 book Norman Rockwell, Illustrator. Although the image was popular at the time in the United States and remains so, it caused resentment in Europe where the masses were enduring wartime hardship. Artistically, the work is highly regarded as an example of mastery of the challenges of white-on-white painting and as one of Rockwell’s most famous works.”

Source – Wikipedia

PAWSitively MATTHEWS

IN MY OPINION – 

On November 3rd the fifth Annual PAWSitively Matthews festival will be held from 10:00 – 4:00.  The presenting sponsor is Jamison Realty which is owned by Paul Jamison.  Mr. Jamison helped form and served as chair of the Economic Development and Advisory Committee (EDAC) and is currently a partner of The Red Brick Partnership of Matthews.  In 2013 the Town Council ruled to condemn Mr. & Mrs. Wrights property along Home Place stating it was a public purpose.  During the condemnation Mr. Jamison was one of the five property owners along Home Place and on February 25, 2013 he sent an email to former mayor James P Taylor stating “We received a commitment from the council that we would not be left behind on this issue.  I expect that commitment to be fulfilled.  We all have a very large investment in this issue and it needs to be finished once and for all.”   Hmmm, a commitment?  What commitment?  Well, in 2014 Honorable Judge Bridges ruled the condemnation was for the “well-connected” and not for a public purpose.  In 2013 Honorable Judge Beal of the NC Supreme Court even placed an injunction upon the Town of Matthews.  In 2015 the North Carolina Court of Appeals dismissed the case ruling the Wrights had “met their burden of showing that the Town’s condemnation action does not serve the public use or benefit.” According to Town Manager Hazen Blodgett there is no accurate account of tax dollars spent in pursuing Town of Matthews v. Wrights, but there is documentation that shows roughly over 250k being spent in pursuing this bogus condemnation.

Email Jamison

11-30-2013 Judgment  –  injunction see page 7

Judge Bridges email

April 21, 2015 NCCOA opinion

On July 15, 2014 the Town of Matthews received a massive amount of rain causing flooding in and around the area.  It was labeled the 100 year storm.  During this storm Paul Jamison had a clogged/blocked drainage pipe along his private drive.  Being that the storm debris was on private property this would have been the responsibility of Mr. Jamison for the clean-up and removal of the storm debris.  With one phone call to former mayor James P Taylor of Matthews our Public Works Department spent two days cleaning and removing the storm debris costing the citizens of Matthews $783.67.  Granted this is not a large sum, but when other citizens in need contacted Public Works Director Ralph Messera and Council members they were informed clean-up was their responsibility.  There seems to be a double standards here.  Furthermore, this was not the first time this drainage pipe had been cleaned from storm debris as stated by former Public Works Director Ralph Messera.

July 16, 2014 – “This is a private driveway up to Paul’s house from Home Place, and it crosses a creek that feeds Dick and Elinore Morris’ lake.  While we have helped clear this driveway pipe in the past of trash such as this, this is really Paul’s responsibility to maintain, by keeping it clear of trash and debris and open to flow.”

Property Damage Emails

  

So what has this got to do with PAWSitively Matthews?  Well, I think this is just one example of the corrupt behavior and favors being cashed in.  Here we have someone while serving as chair on the EDAC demanding that a “commitment” by the Town of Matthews be kept.  Not once but twice Public Works has cleared storm debris from his private property with the town knowing it was his responsibility and Jamison Reality is proudly listed on the town website as the “presenting” sponsor.   So I question, Is this really the kind of sponsorship we want or need to partner with the Town of Matthews?  And why does this council continue to support this type of behavior?  On August 13th Mayor Paul Bailey and Commissioner John Higdon, Jeff Miller, John Urban, Chris Melton, Kress Query and Barbara Dement appointed Adam Brooks, who serves on the EDAC, as the citizen representative to the QUAD of Matthews.  According to John Paul of WSOC-TV he participated in taking jabs at constituents.  This council has no shame.

Lastly I would like to be clear, I am not saying that no one should not attend PAWSitively Matthews the proceeds do go to charity and that is a great thing.  It’s just sad that it has this stigma attached to it.

WSOC article by John Paul

Thank you for supporting MATTHEWS WATCH and please remember to tell your friends and neighbors.  Thank You.  Gina Hoover

TOWN MANAGER RECEIVES SALARY INCREASE

IN MY OPINION – 

While reading this post please remember the Town Manager of a Municipality is the person who is responsible for the town budget.  This past June our Town Manager Hazen Blodgett decided taxes needed to be increased which was approved by the Town Board.  Within the 2018/2019 town budget he also budgeted his salary increase and this year was his largest ever since his employment in June 2003.  On August 27, 2018 Mayor Paul Bailey and Commissioners Jeff Miller, John Higdon, John Urban, Chris Melton, Kress Query and Barbara Dement approved his salary increase of 6% bringing his annual salary from $139,050.00 to $147,000.00 an increase of  $7,950.00.  

2018/2019 Amendment to Agreement

In Matthews the Town Manager is the only person hired, other than the Town Attorney.  Excluding 2009/2010 fiscal year Matthews Town Manager Hazen Blodgett has received a salary increase every year since his employment in 2003 and in 2011/2012 he did receive a economic recovery stipend.  Mr. Blodgett also receives insurance that includes, State Health Plan, BCBS, Enhanced 80/20 for employee/child(ren) and a employer contribution per month.  A salary contribution to 401k and Local Government retirement, a $85.00 monthly cell phone allowance and lastly a $350.00 monthly automobile allowance.  

Within Mr. Blodgett’s contract Section 11 – Automobile Allowance it states, “Employee agrees to use his personal automobile in performing the duties of Manager of the Town of Matthews”   Okay, the current IRS rate is 54.5 cents per mile for any employee should they use their personal car for town business.  and Employer agrees to pay the sum of $350.00 each month to cover the cost of this automobile within the Centralina Council of Governments (CCOG) area.  Use of the Employee’s personal vehicle outside of the CCOG area shall be reimbursed at the normal Town rate.” 

Town Manager Contract – Vehicle allowance p5

What is the CCOG?  “Centralina Council of Governments is located in the Central Piedmont of North Carolina and encompasses nine counties”  and 60 municipalities “representing almost two million people and headquartered in the City of Charlotte.  The “CCOG policies and goals are set by a Board of Delegates, which is composed of over 60 elected officials from the counties, cities and towns throughout the region.  The Board of Delegates meetings provide a platform for discussion of shared issues and also provide a forum for local governement to address issues best handled through regional cooperation, planning and actions.”   The CCOG region referred to within Mr. Blodgett’s contract includes Iredell, Rowan, Lincoln, Gaston, Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, Stanley, Union and Anson Counties.  On December 12, 2010 Commissioner Jeff Miller was appointed to serve on the Board of Delegates for the Town of Matthews, meaning he is to attend CCOG meetings. The Board of Delegates meet four times a year, the Executive Board meets six per year. 

Town Manager Hazen Blodgett was employed by the Town of Matthews on June 23, 2003.  For the past fifteen years he has received the $350.00 monthly automobile allowance which brings this total to $63,000.00.   That’s $4,200.00 per year @ 15 years = $63,000.00.   I requested a list of CCOG meetings attended by Mr. Blodgett for 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 he responded with “I do not attend the CCOG Board meetings.  Jeff Miller is the town’s rep and has been for several years. I recall attending one annual CCOG Board meeting several years ago.  The CCOG is the convener for regional manager’s meetings six times a year +/_.  I estimate I make three of these a year.  I have been on the CCOG’s executive director search committee three times.”   So, according to Mr. Blodgett he has attended one (1) annual CCOG meeting “several years ago” and he “estimates” he makes three (3) manager’s meetings a year.  In order to make sure I understood correctly there was a follow-up.  (Mr. Blodgett’s response in blue)  1. You do not attend the CCOG’s Executive or Board of Delegate Meetings and have not for several years.  Correct?  ” I am not a member of the CCOG Board, so there is no need for me to attend Board meetings.”  2. Would this be the norm for the past 15 years?  “Yes.”  3. Could you please explain your participation for the CCOG’s executive director search committee.  “During my tenure in Matthews there have been 3 searches for the CCOG directors.  Each time they have asked me to serve on the search committee.”  4. Why and how often do you travel within the CCOG region?   “My guess is one time per week to once every ten days I travel to somewhere in the CCOG area”  5. Are you able to provide documentation of your travels?  “I do not keep any records.” 

What?!  No records kept?   In July 2019 Mr. Blodgett’s contract will be up for renewal and he will have received a total of $67,200.00 of taxpayer funds and the Town of Matthews nor the Board of Commissioners require Mr. Blodgett to provide documentation of his travels?  Where’s the transparency and accountability in this?  Is this looking out for the citizens of Matthews.  After all, this vehicle allowance is funded by taxpayer dollars.  I responded again,  Do you know the last region you traveled and why?  Again, why do you travel within the CCOG’s region, what is the purpose?  Are your travels during town business hours and is town staff made aware of where you will be traveling and that you are not in office?  Why are records not kept by you or the town when you travel for the CCOG?  Town Manager Hazen Blodgett responded with, “Ms. Hoover – The Town pays me a $350 per month travel allowance to travel within the 9 county region (CCOG area)  for town business.  Anything outside the 9 county area for town business the Town reimburses me the IRS rate, which is 54.5 cents per mile. thanks, Hazen.”  I guess I hit a nerve.

Public Records Request – Hazen Blodgett email

In effort to learn if our tax dollars are being spent wisely I contacted the CCOG.  I wanted to know if there was a attendance sheet or a listing of anyone who attends the meetings, I learned there is not one they only track attendance for appointed Delegates and Alternates at Board meetings.  I continued with asking, why and how often would a town manager of a municipality travel within the CCOG region, they had no answer.  No surprise there, the CCOG needs membership funds.   The CCOG region includes Iredell, Rowan, Lincoln, Gaston, Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Sanley, Union and Anson and as of August 2, 2018 includes 60 members of the CCOG Board of Delegates.   In the June 13, 2018 CCOG Executive Board meeting minutes it is noted that the Town of Indian Trail sent a letter to the CCOG “expressing their intent to withdraw from the CCOG.”  After contacting Town Manager Patrick Sadek of Indian Trail as to why, he responded with “The Town did not see any Town benefits as being a member.”    

CCOG membership listing  

From 2015-2018 membership fees for the CCOG have cost the citizens of Matthews $29,039.88 and our Town Manager Hazen Blodgett cannot provide documentation of when he has attended anything for the CCOG.  He can only guess.  In Mr. Blodgett’s defense, I can say, when I requested “all” paid invoice’s for the CCOG from  2015-2018 there were two receipts included that show in 2015 a contribution of $115.00 went toward a luncheon for six managers meetings in 2016 and in 2017 a Regional Managers’ and Mayors’ meeting costing $200.00.  So, we can assume he attended these meetings.  Let’s take a moment and look at the six manager luncheon’s that cost the citizens $115.00.  If Mr. Blodgett attended these six (6) meetings.  The Centralina Council of Governments (CCOG) is located at 525 North Tryon Street, 12th Floor Charlotte, NC.  According to MapQuest that is approximately 23 miles one way from the town hall.  Twenty-three (23) x 54.5 current IRS rate = $12.54. Round trip total $25.08. Times six (6) meetings equal’s a grand total of $150.48 for the year.  Don’t forget Mr. Blodgett receives $350.00 monthly that’s $4,200.00 yearly.   With all this being said, the citizens of Matthews could have also been spared this burden.  How?  We have town vehicles bought and paid for by town funds which are available for use by our Town Manager Hazen Blodgett.    

CCOG Invoices 2015-2018

CCOG meeting receipts

Lastly, I would also like to point out that in Mr. Blodgett’s contract it also states in Section 12 Vacation and Sick Leave, “Employer agrees to credit Employee with three hundred, ninety-nine (399) hours of sick leave (accumulated with the City of Whiteville) to be used only in accord with the Town of Matthews Personnel Policy or in connection with retirement benefits and for no other purpose.”  Doesn’t this just make you feel all warm and cozy inside to know that we (citizens of Matthews) get to cover this cost.  

Town Manager Contract page 5 

FYI – not only were our taxes increased in the Town of Matthews, but the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners voted to increase Mecklenburg County taxes. 

Thank you for supporting MATTHEWS WATCH and please remember to tell your friends and neighbors.  Thank you.  Gina Hoover       

 

 

      

 

       

 

 

  

 

       

Twelve Thousand Four Hundred Forty-six Dollars & Fifteen Cents

There will be no posting for July and August.  Have a Happy and Safe Summer!!!

IN MY OPINION – 

So, are you asking yourself what is this amount for?  Well…… Twelve Thousand Four Hundred Forty-six dollars and fifteen cents ($12,446.15) is the amount of taxpayer funds spent for the 2018 Annual Board of Commissioners Planning Conference which was held on February 22nd thru the 25th.  On February 23rd thru the 25th our city officials took a beach trip to Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina and paid for in full by the citizens of Matthews.  Splash Kingdom is the beach house of choice and is a 5,000 square foot ocean front home.  In attendance was Mayor Paul Bailey, Mayor Pro Tem John Higdon, Commissioners Jeff Miller, Chris Melton, John Urban, Kress Query, Barbara Dement, Town Manager Hazen Blodgett, Asst. Town Manager Becky Hawke, Town Clerk Lori Canapinno and Town Attorney Charles Buckley.   

2018 Planning Conference Agenda       

The breakdown of town funds used is as follows,  $3,918.00 for beach house rental for two nights – $89.00 for towel service – $1,599.71 dining (22nd-25th) – $263.35 – grocery & supplies and $631.09 for travel expenses.  It is not entirely necessary for our Town Attorney Charles Buckley to attend the planning conference and knowing that a billing for services rendered would have to be submitted, I requested a copy of his billing statement.  I was surprised to learn that our Town Clerk was unable to provide total hours and amount charged by Mr. Buckley due to the billing requirements by the Town of Matthews.  Apparently and according to Town Manager Hazen Blodgett, Mr. Buckley is not required by the Town to submit an itemized billing which would show an accurate account of services rendered and our Town Manager is okay with this.  When the Town receives a billing statement, Mr. Blodgett (Town Manager) reviews and approves the billing.  With Mr. Buckley currently receiving $205.00 per hour, which was increased last year from $165.00 per hour, I wanted to know exactly the amount of hours being charged to the Town.  Municipalities are required to keep accurate records and as citizens we have the right to know where and how our tax dollars are being spent.  After a public records request Mr. Buckley responded on March 26, 2018 “My time billed the town on Friday February 23 was 10.5 hours; on Saturday February 24 was 10 hours and on Sunday February 26 was 8 hours.  I did not bill the Town for the time between my home and Town Hall on Thursday morning, and the time between Town Hall and my home on Sunday evening.  Also I did not bill the Town when we recessed for the evening meals Friday and Saturday evenings but it does include the time both nights when the Board resumed its discussions after dinner.  So my total time billing for the Planning Conference was 28.5 hours.”   Mr. Buckley was then asked by Town Manager Hazen Blodgett “On 2/22/18 you show “Preparation for the planning conference,” how much time did you spend on the 22nd?  from which Mr. Buckley responded “On the 22nd I billed .5 for preparation for the planning conference.  I didn’t have my notebook yet so I spent that time looking through the electronic version to better understand the agenda and all the attachments.  So I guess my total planning conference billing was 29 hours.”  Really!?  I guess?  I’m sorry, but what’s wrong with this picture?  This is one of many issues we have in the Town of Matthews.  No transparency, no accountability, just the good ol’ boys club attitude.  Mr. Buckley receives payment through town funds (aka tax dollars) and with no questions asked his billing statements are paid.  When the Town of Matthews receives billings from other law firms a itemized billing is required, so why would Mr. Buckley not be held to the same standard?  Twenty-nine hours @ $205.00 per hour comes to a whopping $5,945.00 paid to Town Attorney Charles Buckley who is guessing his hours for the planning conference and by-the-way all beach expenses were paid for as well.    

Buckley – Planning Conference Billing Statement

Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein Billing 

2018 Planning Conference receipts              

In a December 22, 2017 article from the MMHW it’s states “Commissioner Kress Query believes holding planning conferences out of town with minimal staff increases productivity. Holding it in town could make it harder for commissioners to stay focused.”  Wait a minute, hold the phone, let me get this straight.  If the planning conference is held at the Town Hall or a local banquet room our commissioners would not be able to “stay focused.”  Oh, I get it, they need the sun, sand and ocean to help them stay focused.  Yes, I’m being facetious.  Why is it commissioners from surrounding municipalities can keep their planning conferences local and yet stay focused?  Mr. Query recalls a retreat in Chapel Hill in which no one showed up saying, “Staying at a beach house makes it easier to round people up”.   Spoken like a true politician, another way to make it sound as if they are looking out for our best interest.  Last time I checked, Ocean Isle Beach is 191 miles while Chapel Hill is 148, isn’t 191 miles further than 148?  He also stated “It’s the same thing you hear from a small group of people each time about you going out of town to play. Most of them, when you explain to them what we accomplished, I never had one come back and think that was that hard a thing.”   Well first of all, I’m willing to bet he did not disclose the cost of the planning conference when he gives his speech of “what we accomplished” and according to the stories I have been told by past commissioners they all include drinking establishments.  Second, anyone who attends would be responsible for their hotel, food and travel expenses when Commissioner Kress Query has the luxury of the citizens of Matthews covering his bill.  Third, this is a public meeting and critics would argue with that kind of money being spent the citizens of Matthews would be better served if the planning conference was held here in town and saving these funds.  As the saying goes, a penny saved is a penny earned.   

2018 Planning Conference unapproved notes  

2018 Planning Conference approved minutes

If all receipts, invoices, billing statements have been provided for as requested and required by law, this brings the 2018 Planning Conference total to $12,446.15.  Commissioners have criticized citizens for speaking against the misuse of tax dollars for the planning conference,  I’m willing to bet I have been included in their rant.  As taxpayer’s and citizens we are not required to attend the planning conference and we do have the right to hold this Town Board accountable when our tax dollars are misused for their self-indulgent trip to the beach they like to label the Planning Conference.     

THANK YOU AND PLEASE REMEMBER TO SUPPORT MATTHEWS WATCH BY TELLING YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS.  HAVE A SAFE SUMMER.  Gina Hoover

 

                     

HOUSE BILL 514 – PERMIT MUNICIPAL CHARTER SCHOOLS/CERTAIN TOWNS

IN MY OPINION….

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/education/article211595089.html

House Bill 514

What is House Bill 514?  HB514 is a bill that would allow the Town of Matthews and Mint Hill to start and operate their own charter school system.  This bill was presented to the North Carolina General Assembly by Rep. Bill Brawley (Republican) on March 28, 2017 and passed by the House on April 27, 2017 by 78-39 which will now go to the Senate for vote.  The vote could be as early as Wednesday May 16, 2018 when the Senate re-convey’s.  FYI, In 2016 Bill Brawley has received over 28k in donations from donors involved with charter schools. 

On April 23, 2018 Matthews Town Board voted 4-3 to approve a legislative agenda that supports House Bill 514.  The vote was supported by Mayor Paul Bailey and Commissioners John Urban, Kress Query and Chris Melton.  In opposition, Commissioners John Higdon, Jeff Miller and Barbara Dement. 

In a tweet posted by The Town of Matthews –  “The Matthews Board of Commissioners voted last evening (4-3) to support a Legislative Agenda that includes support for HB514 – a bill in the NC General Assembly that would give certain localities the right to start their own charter school, should they choose to do so.  Should HB514 eventually be signed into state law, it only gives the locality the right to create their own charter school – it does not mean that the Town of Matthews will take any action, let alone break away from CMS.  The Town Board’s vote was in no way a vote to break away from CMS.  Should HB514 be signed into state law, extensive additional research and input from the community will be sought prior to the Town Board considering any additional action.”

Really!?  Then why all the secrecy and deceit just to say, we may or may not start a local charter school system?   Why did the Council place HB514 in the Legislative Agenda for vote?  Even the description of HB514 in the Legislative Agenda is misleading, “6. Explore Options/Possibilities for Municipalities to Form School Systems.  See HB514 (An Act to Permit Certain Towns to Operate Charter Schools).   According to section 10 of HB514 “This act is effective when it becomes law and applies to applications to establish a charter school submitted on or after that date.”  Meaning, the Town of Matthews can begin a charter school system on the day HB514 is voted into law whether the citizens agree or not and trust me, THEY KNOW THIS.   Furthermore, why should anyone trust Mayor Paul Bailey and Commissioners John Urban, Kress Query and Chris Melton?   During the election Mr. Bailey lied about using his work email account for town business, in 2005 voted to condemn WWII Veteran Neubert Persur’s farm for a park and in 2013 voted to condemn Mr. & Mrs. Wrights property for well-connected individuals of Matthews and was financially supported in the 2017 election by one of the well-connected as well as John Urban.  Kress Query and John Urban also supported the 2013 vote to condemn the Wright’s property for the well-connected, and one involved was once Mr. Query’s neighbor.  Mr. Urban has made a nice fortune in the development of Matthews while serving as Commissioner.  Kress Query also lied about using his personal email account for town business and supported the 2005 vote to condemn Mr. Purser’s farm.  Chris Melton is known for criticizing the citizenry for not attending Planning Conference’s and participated with former Mayor Jim Taylor in taking jabs at constituents according to WSOC.  I think Chris Melton’s vocab consisted of four words in 2017, I’m Mayor Pro Tem.  This was only possible due to Commissioner John Higdon.  During the 2015 election John Higdon won by one vote so the Board decided to let Chris Melton serve as Mayor Pro Tem in 2017.  So think about it, can you really trust someone who is dishonest, helped well-connected individuals, taken jabs at constituents, condemned a WWII Veterans farm for park?   No, the town tweet is normal BS being spewed once again to the citizens of Matthews and it’s being served on a silver platter.  

Legislative Agenda – HB514   note- when you scroll down to look at number six for HB514 also take at look at number seven.  Funny how Town Manager Hazen Blodgett took the time to label it House Bill 972 but not for House Bill 514.  Reminds me of when the Town had to pay the Wrights their attorney fees in 2015.  In the Town Budget Ordinance Amendment it is just labeled “Legal fees”.   Wright – Refund For Attorney’s Fees  Typical move by the Town when they do not want the public to know the facts.

WSOC article by John Paul 

         

 I’m willing to bet this has been in the planning for quite some time which lead to the creation of the Mayor’s Educational Task Force.  This was formed by former Mayor Jim Taylor and the only purpose for this task force was to create a charter school system within Matthews.  Hmmm, just thinking out loud here, but East 74 Restaurant seems to be a favorite for luncheon dates for Paul Bailey, Kress Query and Jim Taylor.  I wonder if this is where all the scheming began?  Anyway, for the past two years there has been six meetings for this Educational Task Force which included  Commissioner Kress Query, Town Manager Hazen Blodgett and Jim Taylor.  The first meeting was on May 16, 2016 and it is noted “What would legislature want from us before we asked for a bill to be written.”  The Legislative contacts were Bill Brawley, Jeff Tarte and Bob Rucho. Kress Query was to pursue speaker ideas from Paul Bailey.  The third meeting was on August 15, 2016 and in the approved minutes it is noted Senator Jeff Tarte “Raleigh will want to know what the Matthews community wants so they will lean toward a referendum.  Money will follow if referendum is successful.”  Did anyone receive a questionnaire?   During the sixth meeting on Tuesday March 6, 2017 Commissioner Kress Query suggested splitting CMS as an interested option.  This split would be three sections: Northern, Southern and Central.   This was not a feasible option, but he continued with the thought of a Campus for Multiple Charter Schools which would be sponsored by Matthews.  Other thoughts and idea’s were interjected by member’s which lead to Garnetta Smith asking “if task force is interested in Municipal Charter School, as an opportunity to service 5,500 students in Matthews?   According to the the approved minutes “The response was favorable to initiate the necessary steps through Raleigh for approval of a Municipal Charter School.”  Therefore producing the birth of House Bill 514.   

Educational Task Force minutes

There has been a lot of talk of this being a racial issue.  This is not racial, this is more of a power kick the take it or leave it, we know whats best attitude and dirty politics, sadly the children of Matthews are being used.  In a tweet by Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James  stated “CMS is an agressive ‘my way or the highway’ group of liberal autocrats.”    That’s funny because according to an article by WBTV  “school board members were told if they didn’t support a candidate running for state office against Brawley in an upcoming election, the bill would go away.”  it continues with “Sources also say board members were told if they fired Charles Jeter – the bill would go away.”  and when Commissioner John Urban received a text message from a CMS school Board member which he thought was threatening.  This lead to political strategist Lawrence Shaheen leaving a voicemail message for that school board member of his disappointment of the text and “said he would find somebody to oppose her when she is up for reelection.”  This is the same political strategist that represented Mayor Paul Bailey and Commissioners John Urban, Kress Query and Chris Melton during the 2017 election.   

WBTV Article

In a tweet by Dedrick Russell of WBTV “Some ppl in Matthews are ok with paying higher taxes so Town can have own charter school – vote delayed”  Interesting when we have not been told what the cost would be or if there will be a tax increase.  I’m finding it hard to believe taxes will not increase and I think we all can agree the cost will always go up.  Call me crazy, but I never support a tax increase unless it’s in black & white for inspection.  It’s our money and this is a massive undertaking by the Town, just because Bill James tweets that the town will not raise taxes is not enough to convince this chick.  We’ve heard “no new taxes” before.

 

In a article written by John Higdon Mayor Pro Tem of Matthews he has stated, “It has not been proven to be fiscally or functionally viable if schools were constructed, or even vetted by our community at large.  Public support for the bill prior to our vote was almost non-existent, but dissension rife.  This legislation is being rushed through at the 11th hour with insufficient consideration given to the concerns of all stakeholders.”          

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article209807759.html

If HB514 is voted into law this will permit Matthews and Mint Hill to operate their own charter schools and that is terrifyingMatthews Board of Commissioners would be the Board of Directors and they have already failed their first test!  When a teacher assigns a project, what is the main requirement for that project?  RESEARCH!  But, according to Matthews “extensive research” still needs to be done.  The Board of Commissioner’s will be responsible in appointing who will operate the school.  Need to keep an eye on this, I’m sure no favors will be given here and if you believe that I have some land in Florida to sell.  Granted CMS has issues that need addressing and do not get me wrong I am not opposed to Charter Schools.  I think they give parents another option who may be dissatisfied with CMS.  But that’s just it, this is a decision for parents, not the Mayor and Commissioners.  The NCGA House passed HB514 a year ago and the town had many opportunities to inform and educate the community but instead the Town Board chose to sneak the vote in and that is enough to agitate anyone.  By rushing HB514 to vote without all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed this could create a tremendous burden upon the citizens of Matthews.  We have the right to be heard.  There should have been extensive research and community input before the April 23rd vote, but Mayor Paul Bailey and Commissioners Kress Query, John Urban and Chris Melton have made it loud and clear that democracy does not exist in Matthews. 

Remember in politics, the truth always comes out, it may take time but it always comes out.

Thank you for supporting MATTHEWS WATCH and please remember to tell your friends and neighbors.  God bless.   Gina Hoover       

 

        

 

 

              

Commissioner Kress Query questions “Why is it always twisted that something is being done wrong”

IN MY OPINION – 

To make a long story short….. at the intersection of Mt. Harmony Church Road and Stevens Mill Road in planning are 141 townhomes on a 17 acre lot.  This was on the Board of Commissioners meeting agenda for February 12, 2018.  I had sent out a posting informing citizens of the meeting and was surprised to learn just how many people were not aware of the townhomes.  During this posting it was also disclosed there was a community meeting to be held on January 25, 2018 which many were unaware of.  I attended the meeting, voiced my opinion and spoke with a few that attended.  One citizen pointed out “who” owned the land and asked how do you fight that?  I also found it misleading and deceitful that the attorney representing the developer did not disclose his connections with the Town of Matthews.  I decided to send a email to our elected public servants asking them how anyone was able to notice the rezoning sign when it blended in.  I received a response from Town Manager Hazen Blodgett and found his concern for the citizens nonexistent.  Not surprised.  I then noted I would send another posting out and would inform everyone of his response. One resident responded with “You got the standard classic response….we don’t care what the people want or need.  We will do what suits us.  All with our money of course. Exactly, hit the nail on the head.

Mt. Harmony Townhomes email – Hazen Blodgett – when reading emails remember to start from the last page and work upward.  I have also numbered them.

With all this being said, I guess Commissioner Kress Query was not a happy camper when I called his bud out so he decided to join the conversation.  At the end of this email he questioned “Why is it always twisted that something is being done wrong?”.

Mt. Harmony Townhomes email – Kress Query – remember to start from the last page of email.

I would like to give a few examples of why anyone would think this council along with past councils should not and have not been trusted.  Let’s begin with the past five years which includes Commissioner Kress Query. 

PRIVATE EMAIL ACCOUNTS – I made a public records request for Kress Query to provide all emails pertaining to town business through his private email account.  Town Clerk Lori Canapinno responded with “Mr. Query has reported that he has no emails relating to town business in his personal email for this time period.”  That’s funny, because I had in hand at the time of the request emails in hand that had been sent by Kress Query through his personal email account.  I also requested emails for Mayor Paul Bailey and Commissioner John Higdon, Jeff Miller, John Urban and Chris Melton.  Mayor Paul Bailey denied using his work email account when in fact he had. The Commissioners did provide some but my request was for all not a select few.  If I had an award for the best ridiculous response it would have to go to Commissioner Chris Melton.  He responded with “In order to make sure I comply with the request, I’m manually searching to prevent potentially missing anything.”  He then provided his ten pages with three of them being test pages.  That was a hoot.     

Dictionary.com   Liar – a person who tells lies.

                              Lie – a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional                                truth; a falsehood. 

TOWN OF MATTHEWS v. WRIGHT –  In 2013 Kress Query supported the vote to condemn Mr. & Mrs. Wrights property.  Commissioners Jeff Miller, John Urban and Mayor Paul Bailey also supported this vote.  The court ruled the “taking as arbitrary and capricious” and for ” the well-connect” individuals of Matthews.  One of the well-connected was once neighbor to Mr. Query and financially supported John Urban during this past election.  During the condemnation the Town estimated a “just compensation” for the Wirghts property to be $1,500.00.  After having their property appraised the value was $55,976.00.  When the appraisal was submitted to the town our Town Attorney Charles Buckley sent an email to Ms. Hopkins, the appraiser, stating Do you realize that 100% of the R/W being acquired is located in an existing (private) road R/W?  It is not unencumbered fee simple property.  The remaining road area is still public street R/W.”  This was not true and lead to the lowering of the appraisal to $12,825.00.  In the condemnation letter it stated that the condemnation was for “opening, widening, extending or improving roads, streets, alleyways and sidewalks and being more particularly described as Home Place.”  When in fact there were no plans for any improvements to be made by the town as stated by Town Manager Hazen Blodgett.   Matthews made it into the law books with the April 21, 2015 North Carolina Court of Appeals (NCCOA) decision.  This was a published opinion and will now set a new precedent for the State of North Carolina.  Judge Hunter even included former Mayor Jim Taylor’s use of his private email account in order to keep from public record.  Only around $250,000.00 tax payer funds can be accounted for this fiasco and this includes attorney fees for some of the well-connected involved.  Isn’t is nice to know your tax dollars are hard at work?                     

Condemnation Letters

Wright – Appraisal first one

Wright – Buckley Appraisal email

Wright – Appraisal second one   

Hazen Blodgett Deposition pages 14-17

3-11-2014 JUDMENT 

NCCOA opinion 4-21-2015

WWII VETERAN NEUBERT PURSER – In 2005 the 72 acre farm of Neubert Purser was condemned for a park.  The vote to condemn included former Mayor Lee Myers former Commissioners Paula Lester, Jim Taylor and Suzanne Gulley and let’s not forget current Commissioner Kress Query and Mayor Paul Bailey who were in support.  The town has denied the condemnation while the letter served shows otherwise. While learning all the details I was informed that Kress Query’s father was a friend of Mr. Purser and Commissioner Kress Query would ride by Mr. Purser’s home but there would be no answer, feeling a bit guilty?  It has been thirteen years now and still no park, no worries on December 12, 2017 the Board voted to spend $37,000.00 to demolish his home.    

Neubert Purser

 Purser Resolution for Condemnation

Purser Condemnation Letter   

2014 RAIN/FLOODING – Remember all the rain we receive in July of 2014?  It was called the 100 year storm.  Many citizens around Matthews had flooding and property damage and reached out to former Mayor Taylor, John Ross, Joe Pata and current Commissioners Jeff Miller, John Higdon, Chris Melton and Kress Query.  Citizens were told they were responsible for the clean-up on their private property.  After the storm former Mayor Jim Taylor received a phone call from Paul Jamison who was Chair of the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) at the time, informing him of the storm debris blocking a pipe that was located on his private property.  Even though this was Mr. Jamison’s responsibility as stated by former Public Works Director Ralph Messera “While we have helped clear this driveway pipe in the past of trash such as this, this is really “Paul’s responsibility to maintain, by keeping it clear of trash and debris and open to flow.”  Matthews Public Works spent two days cleaning up the storm debris.  The cost for clean-up was $783.67 but according to Charlotte Mecklenburg County Storm Water Services funds cannot be used on private property.  

Jamison – Storm clean-up 2014

Jamison – Storm Water Services

FORMER CHIEF OF POLICE RONNIE MORRIS AFFIDAVIT –  In May of 1992 Virginia Wright went to the Town Hall in effort to file a complaint against the town.  Town Attorney Charles Buckley instructed Mr. Morris to find a way to keep her out of the Town Hall.  This is a public building paid for by public funds and Mrs. Wright had every right to exercise her Constitutional Rights.  

Police Chief Ronnie Morris Affidavit

SECURITY LIGHTS FOR THE WELL-CONNECTED – In 1986 the Town had three security street lights installed along Home Place.  Your taxes which are allocated to the Powell Bill are used by the town to pay for these lights.  In 2015 one of the lights went out and the town was not allowed to replace because it was located on the Wrights property.  In 2013 Judge Beal placed an injunction upon the Town of Matthews.  No one from Matthews or working on behalf of the town is allowed to enter the Wrights property without their permission. Somehow the light was replaced so this then gave the Wrights the legal right to sue the town.  After the Town was notified of the trespass during a Board of Commissioners meeting it was decided “a good samaritan” replaced the light.  With the determination to replace the light Town Manager Hazen Blodgett wanted to put a new pole and light across the street.  I wondered if Duke Energy was aware of the injunction so I contacted them and to no surprise no one from Matthews had informed them. By putting the light up this would have put Duke Energy in violation so the light was not replaced.   This is pretty much how Home Place, Town of Matthews v. Wright, all began.  The Town had lights installed and after 20 years they could claim prescription (legally steal) the Wrights property.  So they sat back, kept their mouths shut and just waited until the Town could claim the Wrights property.  Luckily Mrs. Wright learned of all this just in time.               

Duke Energy street lights picture

REVERDY FARMS SUBDIVISION –  Vicus Builders Inc. submitted preliminary plans for a 12 lot subdivision on the southeast quadrant intersection of Reverdy Lane and Home Place.  On August 27, 2014 these plans were approved by the County and Town staff and on September 8, 2014 was unanimously approved by the Town Council which included former Mayor Jim Taylor and Commissioner John Higdon, Jeff Miller, Chris Melton, John Ross and yes Kress Query.  In the plans it states “All area between the PL and the exist R/W will be dedicated to the Town of Matthews with the platting of the lots.”   In Matthews and Mecklenburg County lots cannot be sold that do not abut a public street.  Home Place is a private street, it has never been dedicated to the Town of Matthews so how could this be approved?  How can half a street be dedicated?  By approving Reverdy Farms wouldn’t subdivision laws of Mecklenburg County have been broken?  Something’s fishy here.       

Reverdy Farms

HILL SAND AND GRAVEL – This is an oldie but a goodie.  Without the owners knowledge of Hill Sand and Gravel the town decided to change their zoning.  This then would open the door to get rid of this business and this was one business the town was not a fan of.  When the owner learned of the plans he preceded to employ an attorney, the town then changed it’s tune.     

I could go on but I think we all get the picture here.  A new year has begun and new to the Council is Barbara Dement who has already begun to show her true colors.  The council was informed of an incident that could have taken the life of a citizen.  I found her lack of concern appalling and sent her an email, she has not responded.   So to answer Commissioner Kress Query’s question of why he feels things get “twisted” maybe he should take a look at himself and his past decision making.  Maybe he should really look at how he, along with other elected officials, have treated citizens.  Instead of claiming transparency DO IT and start by properly disclosing where our tax dollars are going.  For example – Budget Ordinance Amendment  this should say, reimbursement to Wright family for legal fees not just “legal fees”.   ALL the lie’s have to stop, how can anyone trust a liar? 

As for the townhomes, there was a request to defer the public hearing which was granted to April 9, 2018.    

As always please remember to support MATTHEWS WATCH by telling your friends and neighbors.  Thank you for the support, take care and God Bless.  Gina Hoover   

 

 

TECHNOLOGY ALLOWANCE SPENDING FOR 2016/2017

 

What is the Technology Allowance?  On November 28,2005 the Town of Matthews Board of Commissioners voted to pass an allowance of $3,500.00 per term for each Commissioner.  The purpose of the Technology Allowance is for “acquiring computer hardware, software, communications equipment and services and related equipment and related training to assist the Boards of Commissioners in fulfilling their duties by enhancing communication and information processing with each other, staff and constituents.”   Bringing total to $24,500.00 of taxpayer funds  to finance this allowance.  Any unused funds can be transferred to another Board member if they both agree.  All items that are purchased become their personal property even if the Mayor and Commissioners do not fulfill their term.  To receive their reimbursement all receipts must be submitted and approved by the Town Board.  They have until the end of the term serving to submit receipts for reimbursement.  During the 2017 Planning Conference it was discussed to increase the allowance by $100.00 which would bring amount to $3,600.00 per council member thus increasing  total to $25,200.00. This increase passed unanimously.  This vote included current Commissioners Jeff Miller, John Higdon, John Urban and Chris Melton.  Former Commissioners John Ross, Larry Whitley and Former Mayor Jim Taylor.

2016 REIMBURSEMENTS – 

January 11, 2016         $675.60    Larry Whitley

March 28, 2016            $281.44     Chris Melton

April 25, 2016               $1,959.46   Chris Melton

November 28, 2016      $2,157.16  Jeff Miller

November 28, 2016      $96.29  John Ross

December 12, 2016      $1,730.01   Larry Whitley

2017 REIMBURSEMENTS – 

November 13, 2017    $1,442.84    Jeff Miller

November 27, 2017    $1,193.39    Larry Whitley

November 27, 2017    $1,200.00   John Higdon

November 27, 2017    $3,600.00   James P. Taylor  

Total amount spent for the term year of 2016/2017 by the Mayor and Commissioners was $14,336.19 paid in full by the citizens of Matthews.  The bright side to this total?  There is a savings of $10,863.81.  

WHO SPENT THEIR AMOUNT ALLOWED AND WHAT WERE THE FUNDS USED FOR?

Former Commissioner Larry Whitley spent $3,599.99 to purchase a ASUS laptop, Apple iPhone, software, mouse, internet, cell phone service and misc office supplies.

Technology Allowance 2016-2017 Whitley

I have provided the link for the receipts that were submitted on December 12, 2016.  It was Christmas I forgot to save documents to my computer.  My bad.  The receipts run from pages 246-269. 

 http://www.matthewsnc.gov/files/documents/BoardofCommissionersPacket12-12-16041027120816PM1315.pdf

Former Commissioner John Ross spent $96.29 to purchase a McAfee subscription renewal.

Technology Allowance 2016-2017 Ross

Former Mayor Jim Taylor spent $3,600.00 to purchase cell phone service and a bundled phone and internet service. 

Technology Allowance 2016-2017 – Taylor

Commissioner Jeff Miller spent $3,600.00 to  purchase a monitor, mouse, laser pointers, internet service, cell phone service, Norton Anti-Virus renewal, laptop charging station, phone charger and misc. office supplies.   

Technology Allowance 2016-2017 Miller 

John Higdon spent $1,200.00 for cell phone service.

Technology Allowance 2016-2017 Higdon

Chris Melton spent $2,240.90 of this amount $1,499.00 was to purchase a Macbook Pro making this his third computer purchased within three years.  In 2014 he purchased a iPad Air $629.99 and in 2015 MacBook Air $854.99.  Funds were also used for cell phone service, magic mouse 2 and a App for Macbook Air/13″ Macbook Pro. 

Technology Allowance 2016-2017 Melton

Technology Allowance 2014-2015 Melton

John Urban did not submit any receipts for reimbursement. 

As always please remember to support MATTHEWS WATCH by telling your friends and neighbors.  Thank you.  Gina