Local Freedom Hater Served Justice Sandwich

Hurricane Florence may be on her way towards our area, but Hurricane Justice already made landfall in Cornelius earlier this week and the Miltich residence was directly in its path. In case you weren’t aware, Mr. Michael F. Miltich, an elected member of the Cornelius Town Board, FREAKING SUED one of his constituents, Ms. Michelle Ferlauto, in July because he was super mad about some words she typed on the internets and because he hates America and Freedom and getting called out for being a liar liar with his pants on fire for lying about comments he was recorded making about Cornelius firefighters. I’ll link the actual lawsuit at the bottom of the page in case you want to show your kids what a frivolous suit looks like.

[IMPORTANT NOTE: PLEASE DON’T SUE ME TOO MR. MILTICH, THIS IS ALL JUST MY OPINION AND IS TOTALLY PROTECTED POLITICAL SPEECH CONCERNING A PUBLIC FIGURE (See U.S. CONST. am. 1.) BECAUSE IT’S STILL NOT ILLEGAL TO MAKE FUN OF POLITICIANS IN AMERICA.]

Thankfully for Ms. Ferlauto, the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice this week [see Dismissal below, along with copies of Ms. Ferlauto’s Answer, Motion to Dismiss, and Motion for Sanctions] due to the stellar legal work of local attorneys Jim Dedman of Gallivan, White & Boyd and Eric Spengler of Spengler & Agans. If you, too, have been sued by a butthurt elected official in your town for exercising your free political speech, or if you need assistance with any other legal issues, I would highly encourage you contact either of these fine members of the bar. If they hadn’t agreed to defend Ms. Ferlauto pro bono, the costs for her to defend this garbage lawsuit could have potentially been devastating. And the cowardly Mr. Miltich knew this, which is why he purposefully chose to sue only Ms. Ferlauto despite multiple other individuals and media outlets discussing/reporting his recorded comments about Cornelius firefighters, because he mistakenly thought she was an easy target and he could use a suit against her to score political points. I wouldn’t recommend you hold your breath waiting for Mr. Miltich to file a similar bogus lawsuit against any local media outlets or any other individuals.

Miltich Dismissal

Miltich Answer

To be clear, dismissed with prejudice means there was NO SETTLEMENT by Ms. Ferlauto. She didn’t have to delete any social media postings and she didn’t have to sign any non-disclosure agreement as demanded by Mr. Miltich. Seriously, he tried to get her to sign an NDA before he’d agree to drop his COMPLETELY FRIVOLOUS LAWSUIT. Instead, she simply stood her ground against a bully and punched him in the nose – figuratively speaking, of course – and he went crying back to his mommy JUST SIX DAYS after her attorneys filed a Motion to Dismiss and a Motion for Sanctions in their answer to the lawsuit. Unfortunately, two attorneys had to waste their valuable time in dealing with this frivolity and Ms. Ferlauto has had to deal with the stress of being sued ever since July – not an easy thing to deal with for most non-attorneys.

Why so many other local elected officials and local politicos are still being seen in photos on social media with Mr. Miltich even AFTER he attempted to silence the political speech of a constituent is beyond me.

The good folks in Cornelius deserve better. If Mr. Miltich was in possession of any decency he would resign immediately.

Eric

Miltich Suit

Firearm Brandished Inside New Huntersville Recreation Center

Sadly, schools aren’t the only soft targets we need to worry about locally. According to the incident report posted below, an unnamed individual brought a firearm into the new Huntersville Recreation Center around 2:30pm during basketball open gym back on Sunday, July 22 and threatened at least one person at the Rec Center.

Why has this incident not been reported by any local press and why did the town board not discuss this incident last week during their August 6 board meeting? How long have board members known about this incident? Have there been other incidents involving firearms at the Rec Center or other town facilities that haven’t been disclosed yet?

What steps, if any, have been taken by the town to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future? Was a risk management assessment ever done by the town at the new Rec Center to determine if security measures were appropriate?

Is it known whether the suspect is a Huntersville resident or someone from out of town? Has any description of the suspect been made public or posted at the Rec Center to alert staff/members in the event the suspect returns? Has the suspect even been banned from the facility? Has there been an arrest yet?

Does the town just need to install a larger NO GUNS ALLOWED sign since clearly the suspect didn’t see the sign currently posted at the entrance prohibiting guns otherwise they obviously wouldn’t have brought their gun inside? The incident report indicates the Rec Center has a sign posted at the entrance that no firearms are permitted inside – the sign must have been installed after this picture posted on facebook was taken during the grand opening ceremony back in January.

When I contacted the Rec Center to inquire about basketball open gym hours I was told by the person who answered the phone that basketball open gym had to be shut down for a while due to it being super booked, but to check back in September when it might be back open to the public. So, is town staff being instructed to misrepresent why basketball open gym hours aren’t available at the facility primarily set up for basketball if a member of the public inquires?

Would the town be better off selling this facility as soon as possible to the highest bidder so the town can both decrease its liability exposure and so taxpayers don’t have to continue to subsidize the recreational choices of others?

So many questions.

2018-07-22 Rec center incident report

Eric

Bales and Hines Bring Social Justice Activism to Huntersville

The person in the photo above is Bree Stallings, an artist and self-described activist from Charlotte, and she is standing beside a piece she created on a column inside the Knight Theater back in 2016. You can read more about the piece here. Ms. Stallings and her work were being promoted by a town staff member at the very first meeting in June of the newly created Public Art Commission. If you’ll recall, thanks to Commissioners Melinda Bales and Brian Hines, and with the support of Mayor Aneralla, this new group was created by a 3-2 vote (Commissioners Boone and Phillips opposed, Commissioner Gibbons absent) at the March 19, 2018 town board meeting.

According to the minutes from the initial meeting of the Public Art Commission on June 13, Huntersville town employee Alison Ahrens provided a quote for an “interactive piece” by Ms. Stallings priced at $14,220. No description of the “interactive piece” was provided in the minutes. Why was town staff promoting one specific artist from Charlotte at the very first meeting of the Public Art Commission? Are there no artists in Huntersville who could possibly be of service to the town? This isn’t the first instance of the town promoting Ms. Stallings and her work – she is one of the featured artists named at the town’s Hello Huntersville Festival website and also has a piece currently being displayed at the town’s Arts and Cultural Center (the old library building) near Town Hall.

 

Also in attendance at the June 13 meeting was a representative from Atrium Health (formerly Carolinas Healthcare System), Anna Robinson. Ms. Robinson expressed interest on behalf of Atrium in sponsoring Ms. Stalling’s “interactive piece” to include some type of branding recognition for Atrium. Why was Atrium the only business interest represented at the June 13 meeting? Were any other local businesses contacted to see about their interest in being represented at the June 13 meeting (or the subsequent art commission meetings in July and August) or their interest in promoting local public art? Is Atrium just attempting to use the town’s Public Art Commission to garner some positive local PR after their recent legal issues?

Of note from the minutes of the second meeting of the Public Art Commission on July 11, commission members had to be instructed by town staff that a private facebook group used to discuss town business was not allowed. The private facebook group has since been shut down according to town staff. And this after discussions about holding additional meetings at a private residence or restaurant at the June 13 meeting. Kudos to town staff for working so quickly to educate the Public Art Commission on North Carolina open meetings laws. I am still waiting, however, on a response from the town on whether any steps were taken to preserve any discussions related to town business that took place in the private facebook group before it was shut down.

Why such a push from the mayor and town staff for “public art” in the area around the Gilead/Old Statesville intersection near Town Hall? Is this merely an attempt to benefit “downtown” interests at the expense of taxpayers in other parts of Huntersville?

Again, the town should not be in the art business and the town board should not be put in the position of having to make decisions about something as subjective as art. Will Commissioners Bales and Hines be supportive of this “interactive piece” proposed by Ms. Stallings if it is used to promote social justice causes important to her that may not be as important to a majority of Huntersville residents?

The most recent meeting of the Public Art Commission was scheduled to be held yesterday – August 9. I will provide any relevant updates once the draft minutes from that meeting are released.

Eric

 

 

HPD Take Home Vehicles – Cost or Benefit?

UPDATE: The town has confirmed there are also four (4) take home vehicles in the Engineering & Public Works Dept. I don’t know whether this means four employees have take home vehicles they use to drive to/from work every day, or if there are four vehicles available for use if needed. But, the town has also confirmed there is no written policy similar to HPD’s take home policy governing the use of take home vehicles by Engineering & Public Works. Why is the town board continuing to allow such a massive liability without any oversight??


When the news broke on July 16 that a Huntersville police officer was involved in an accident (the accident was not his fault) in his unmarked police vehicle while on his way to work, one detail that stood out to me was the location of the accident – at the Rowan and Cabarrus County line. Why was HPD officer Ryan Smith driving to work all the way from Rowan County in an HPD vehicle? I wanted to learn more about HPD’s take home vehicle policy (“Policy”) to find out if Officer Smith was the only officer driving such a long distance to and from work each day so I sent a records request to the town for more information. Based on the information I received, Officer Smith’s situation is clearly not the exception to the rule at HPD.

The current HPD Policy (or “Personally Assigned Cruiser Program”) became effective on August 8, 2016. [See attached below] The current Policy rescinded the prior take home vehicle policy under Chief Phillip Potter that was effective from Nov. 21, 2011 until August 7, 2016. While the prior policy and the current Policy are very similar, Chief Cleveland Spruill made four (4) significant revisions to the Policy that greatly increased the annual mileage for HPD’s vehicle fleet: 1) the new Policy uses an arbitrary “outermost town limits” standard to determine to/from distance from the officer’s primary residence instead of a fixed point like HPD headquarters under the prior policy; 2) the new Policy uses “the actual straight line distance” from the officer’s home to the outermost town limits to determine to/from distance instead of “the actual shortest direct driving route distance as measured on public roadways” as under the prior policy; 3) the new Policy increased the number of categories of officers permitted to take an HPD vehicle up to 20 miles from the outermost town limits to now include SWAT, crash re-constructionists, and animal control; and 4) the new Policy added a provision giving the chief full discretion to grant approval for distances greater than 20 miles from the outermost town limits under unique circumstances after “consultation” with the town manager (but not the town board).

2018-07-17 1.43 DIRECTIVE PAC PROGRAM

The changes made to the Policy under Chief Spruill clearly resulted in additional costs to taxpayers, so why has there never been a public discussion by the town board about whether the additional costs of this new Policy outweigh any benefits? Additional costs such as increased liability for accidents and higher insurance costs, increased costs for fuel, increased wear/tear on the vehicle and higher maintenance costs, and the increased costs related to the frequency of needing new police vehicles once they hit a certain mileage mark (e.g., 100K miles). Don’t just take my word for it, here’s what Davidson’s Chief Penny Dunn had to say about the issue in an email from March 21, 2018 to one of her sergeants about their take home policy, “My understanding is there is a 10 mile limit, but officers are living and driving the vehicles further than 10 miles. My concerns are not just related to the cost for gas, wear/tear on the vehicle, increased mileage on the vehicle, and increased risk when driven further than our stated policy. There is also the impression that officers can live anywhere contrary to being close enough for a reasonable response time for emergencies…”

Thankfully, Officer Smith wasn’t injured in his recent accident, but his vehicle will still need to be repaired or possibly replaced. Have any other accidents taken place in an HPD vehicle during officer travel to/from work since the new Policy went into effect in August 2016 and, if so, how much has this cost the town? What if a major at fault accident involving significant property damage and/or personal injury takes place while an HPD officer is driving his take home vehicle to/from work pursuant to the current Policy – is the town prepared for this responsibility?

Do the costs outweigh the benefits?

Has the Policy actually increased officer visibility resulting in a deterrent effect? Has the Policy actually increased time efficiency of officers or resulted in quicker response times to emergencies? Does HPD make any efforts or have any ability to actually track the mileage on their vehicles related to travel to/from work? Has any audit ever been performed on the HPD vehicle fleet with regards to mileage that is not work-related, vehicle maintenance, or fuel costs since the Policy went into effect? Is there any independent verification by superior officers of the distance submitted by an officer on their Take Home Vehicle Request Form, or is it up to each officer to determine their own distance from their residence to/from the outermost town limits? If each officer makes their own determination of distance to/from the outermost town limits, are there any officers currently taking home vehicles in violation of the distance limits in HPD’s Policy? One google map printout, for example, shows a “straight line” distance of 19.8 miles from a location in Gaston County to an arbitrary point on the west side of Huntersville near Latta Plantation. But, if you barely move the computer mouse to measure distance on google maps to another arbitrary point on the west side of Huntersville near Latta it’s very, very easy to exceed the 20 mile from the outermost town limit threshold.

Per Sections A.(C.)(3) and G. of HPD’s Policy – it seems fair to categorize the assignment of a take home vehicle as more of a perk or fringe benefit rather than a necessity for officers who need take home vehicles or newer fleet vehicles the most for work related purposes and not just commuting to/from work. Would it be more beneficial to assign take home vehicles based upon an officer’s job requirements/duties and not simply as a perk or fringe benefit of promotion? And are there any unreported HPD vehicles being used for travel to/from work that need to have their mileage audited – e.g., vehicles used for undercover purposes or vehicles obtained with asset forfeiture/equitable sharing funds?

Again, do the costs outweigh the benefits?

According to the most current HPD Personally Assigned Cruiser list I received on July 19, 95 officers were listed (it’s unclear if the list includes any non-sworn HPD employees) and 86 of those 95 were assigned a take home vehicle. 27/86 (31.3%) are listed as having a take home vehicle and live within the town limits. 28/86 are listed as having a take home vehicle and living within 20 miles of the outermost town limits, but six (6) of the 28 are listed as “remote park” so they park their police vehicle at a pre-approved location and then drive their personal vehicle the remaining distance to their residence. So, 22/86 (25.5%) drive a take home vehicle to a residence within 20 miles of the outermost town limits. Leaving the largest percentage listed, 31/86 (36%), having a take home vehicle and living within 12 miles of the outermost town limits (the limit for all other non-command officers).

Based on information I received from the town, the officer driving the farthest distance one way to work appears to be Officer T. Seth Hager. A website printout that appears to be dated Dec. 19, 2016 shows a “straight line” distance of 36 miles from Officer Hager’s residence to 9615 Northcross Center Ct. in Huntersville (behind the Lowes in the Target shopping center off Sam Furr which is apparently where Officer Hager reports for duty…). If you calculate the actual driving distance from Officer Hager’s residence to that same address in Huntersville using google maps, the shortest driving distance is 42.6 miles – a difference of approx. 6.6 miles, or 13.2 miles round trip.

In case it’s not obvious, the problem with using a “straight line” to calculate distance traveled for an automobile is that automobiles can’t fly – yet.

Officer Hager’s situation is unique in that he is the only officer who the chief has specifically approved (with concurrence from former town manager Greg Ferguson) for travel at a greater distance than allowed under the Policy, but a number of other officers travel nearly as far to/from work as Officer Hager on a daily basis. The officer involved in the recent accident, Officer Ryan Smith, for example, reports a “straight line” distance of 17.7 miles to the outermost town limits, but if you calculate the actual driving distance from his residence to HPD HQ (since no specific outermost town limit address was used by Officer Smith unlike Officer Hager), the shortest driving distance is 29.3 miles. And the same underestimation of mileage using a “straight line” calculation could be demonstrated for the officers coming from Bessemer City, Kings Mountain, Sherrills Ford, Iron Station, Lincolnton, China Grove, Catawba, or Waxhaw.

The town board most recently approved the expenditure of $177,835 to help pay part of the costs for eleven (11) new police vehicles during the Nov. 20, 2017 town board meeting (this amount had already been approved in the HPD budget for FY17/18). What percentage/portion of these eleven new vehicles were necessary, even in part, due to the additional mileage being placed on old vehicles solely related to travel to/from work pursuant to the current Policy? Someone in the town’s finance department with access to complete details on every take home vehicle could easily come up with an accounting breakdown of the effect of this Policy on the number of new vehicles HPD needs on an annual basis.

Interestingly, every “straight line” map I received in response to my request for information, except for Officer Seth Hager’s (which was dated Dec. 19, 2016), was a google map printout with a Google copyright date of 2018 and one printout even appeared to be dated the same day I submitted my request! I just can’t figure out why all the google map printouts would be dated 2018 when the current policy went into effect all the way back in August 2016??

Compared with other local departments, HPD’s Policy is definitely not an outlier, but HPD’s Policy should still be judged on its own merits. Cornelius allows take home vehicles within 20 miles of town limits, Mooresville within 20 miles of “contiguous” town limits or at the chief’s discretion, Davidson doesn’t yet have a formal written policy on distance – but their department allows take home vehicles up to 10 miles of town limit, Matthews no more than 15 miles from “contiguous” town limits, CMPD allows marked vehicles up to a 45 mile radius in Mecklenburg and counties contiguous with Mecklenburg (I wasn’t able to easily interpret their policy on unmarked vehicles), and the MCSO allows for a 50 mile radius from the government center in Charlotte. From what I could tell reviewing the other policies only HPD’s policy specifies how to calculate distance to/from work – it would be interesting to learn if any department still uses the shortest driving distance standard rather than a straight line.

One final point – the MCSO’s policy appeared to be the only policy with language pertaining to the IRS. MCSO’s policy states, “The County will comply with guidelines from IRS Publication 15B (Employer’s Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits) to determine the value, if any, of the commuting use of a vehicle provided to an employee during the commute certification benefit year…” and goes on to state, “Personal use of an employer-provided vehicle is defined by the IRS as a taxable non-cash fringe benefit. These regulations apply to employees who drive County vehicles to and from home. Employees driving a County vehicle that is not exempt from the take-home rule will be subject to applicable taxes.” Even if most or all of HPD’s take home vehicles are considered a working condition benefit excluded from taxable income, wouldn’t it be smart to include similar language in our Policy in case the town or an HPD employee does have some tax liability for a take home vehicle?

But just because the IRS doesn’t consider a take home vehicle for law enforcement a taxable benefit doesn’t mean it’s not a huge benefit nonetheless. How many other town employees (or anyone reading this) get a take home vehicle so they don’t have to put mileage and wear/tear on their personal vehicle for work travel or worry about having to pay for gas during the work week?

The current HPD Policy has been in effect for almost two years now with no oversight from the town board (no oversight of the town’s emergency services seems to be a theme…). Since it’s clear the town board doesn’t want to make time to discuss how to protect the residents of Huntersville from corrupt officials in the future by enacting a new bid policy for contracts, maybe they can at least make time during their board meeting next week to discuss whether this Policy is a cost or a benefit to Huntersville residents.

And speaking of police vehicle mileage, how many additional miles is the used HPD armored vehicle going to rack up next week when it’s paraded around for National Night Out? Gotta keep the miles on that odometer low so it holds its value!

Eric

Ada Jenkins Reports $942K Revenue Loss On Latest Tax Form

After the Huntersville town board voted 4-2 (Hines, Boone, Bales, Walsh in favor) last month to continue the immoral practice of forced charity, I decided to take a closer look at the beneficiary of this forced charity, the Ada Jenkins Center in Davidson (“Ada Jenkins”). I began by requesting their recent Form 990’s (the form the IRS requires tax-exempt organizations to file on an annual basis) from the executive director of Ada Jenkins, Georgia Krueger, which she provided. And then, unlike the four Huntersville board members who voted to spend $15,000 of other people’s money on Ada Jenkins, I sent some questions to Ms. Krueger so I could learn more about some of the information found in Ada Jenkins’ tax forms. Below are the ten questions I submitted followed by the response (or lack thereof) I received from Ms. Krueger yesterday.

  • How much in total contributions did Ada Jenkins receive from any local, state, or federal government body in your last reported FY from July 2016 through June 2017?
  • How much in total contributions did Ada Jenkins receive from any local, state, or federal government body in your FY from July 2015 through June 2016?
  • How much did each body listed in response to Questions 1 and 2 contribute respectively to Ada Jenkins?
  • Per your most recent 990, under revenue – why did Ada’s contributions/grants decrease from a reported $2,806,115 in the prior year to a reported $1,863,505 in the current year?
  • Per your most recent 990, under expenses – why did Ada’s salaries/other compensation increase approx. $142K over the prior year when revenues were down approx. $942K over the prior year?
  • How many paid staff does Ada Jenkins currently employ – both full-time and part-time respectively?
  • Per your most recent 990, on pg. 31/39 under Fundraising Events – where did you hold the dinner/auction for Event #1 that listed rent/facility costs of $61,278? And under revenue for the same event – please explain line items 1, 2, and 3, i.e., why is gross income less than gross receipts?
  • Please list all sources of food donations to Ada Jenkins other than from individuals.
  • Why did the number of recipients listed as receiving food assistance in FY 14/15 – 4,315, decrease to 1,628 recipients in FY 15/16?
  • Is Ada Jenkins currently accepting new clients for any of its services/programs? If no, please specify which services/programs are not currently accepting new clients. [Ada Jenkins is currently accepting new clients per the response of Ms. Krueger.]

Mr. Rowell, 

As requested, I have sent you each of the 990’s. However, I am choosing not to answer your questions below. Ada Jenkins is an amazing center of hope for many people-the largest number of which are from Huntersville. We work closely with our client-partners, through a system of integrated services that support the entire family in reaching economic security. That is obviously life changing for the better. 

We are taking new clients. 

Georgia Krueger

Executive Director

It’s always interesting when someone in charge of an organization funded with tax dollars tells a taxpayer to, politely, go pound sand when they start asking questions.

Ada Jenkins has benefited from $170K in tax dollars from Huntersville since 2003, including the $15K in the budget the town just approved earlier this month. They have likely received a similar amount from Cornelius and Davidson over the years since Cornelius budgeted $15K in this year’s budget while Davidson budgeted $32,500 ($20K in maintenance funds and $12,500 from the town’s non-profit pot). In addition, Ada Jenkins will receive $25K from Mecklenburg County and another $25K from the state. If my math is right, that’s $112,500 in taxpayer funding that Ada Jenkins will benefit from in FY 18/19 (and that’s assuming they don’t receive any money from the federal government as well). I wonder if any of the elected officials from any of the bodies listed above would get a similar response from Ms. Krueger if they asked the same questions I did?

Ada Jenkins reported salaries/employee benefit expenses of $1,210,132 on their most recent tax form. Ms. Krueger reported an income of $84,019 on the same form, so where is the remainder of this salary money being paid? And why did salaries increase last year while Ada Jenkins reported that their expenses exceeded revenues by $56,033? This doesn’t seem to be a sustainable business model.

Another interesting note from their most recent tax form, Ada Jenkins has been utilizing the services of a professional fundraiser for the past two years. The interesting part – the company is located in Georgia! I thought everyone in Davidson bought local? Apparently the folks at Ada Jenkins need to learn to “Turn Around, Shop In Town!”

You can find copies of Ada Jenkins’ most recent Form 990’s below.

Ada Jenkins Form 990 2016
Ada Jenkins Form 990 2015
Ada Jenkins Form 990 2014

Eric

HPD Chief And Two Other Officers Involved In At Fault Accidents

Buried in the consent agenda (where transparency goes to die) for last Monday night’s town board meeting was item 10.B – Approve budget amendment recognizing insurance revenue in the amount of $28,493.51 and appropriate to the Police Department’s auto insurance account. No, HPD hasn’t gone into the insurance business and that $28K doesn’t represent premiums from selling insurance policies; this money simply represents claims being paid on HPD’s insurance policy with the NC League of Municipalities. I know the finance department might consider this “revenue” because it’s money coming into the town, but the town should at least stop referring to claims being paid out as “revenue” on the agenda lest the town wants to make it seem as if our officers being involved in accidents where they are at fault is some sort of net positive for the town.

The summary page for this agenda item in the full agenda packet stated this $28K involved eight accident claims, three of which the town was at fault. I requested more information from the town and was provided the documents attached below. [I have redacted the names of the other drivers involved.] Chief Spruill was involved in a collision on March 1, 2018, Officer Daniel Johnson, Jr. was involved in a collision on April 16, 2018, and Officer Bergin was involved in a single car accident during an ice storm on January 17, 2018.

How do these accidents affect the town’s insurance rates? Were any citations issued as a result of these accidents? How many at fault accidents have HPD officers been involved in this year and how does HPD’s at fault accident rate compare with other departments statewide? What, if any, remedial or disciplinary measures are taken by HPD when an officer is involved in an at fault accident? Just a few of the questions that could have been asked from the dais Monday night if this item wasn’t buried in consent.

2018-06-20 HPD accdt reports

Eric

Forced Charity – Ada Jenkins Edition

– For the Christians among us, we should consider that when God gave Moses the commandment “Thou shalt not steal,” he probably didn’t mean thou shalt not steal unless you can get a majority vote [on the Huntersville town board]. – Dr. Walter Williams

The town board held a pre-meeting discussion on various budget items Monday night, including whether to increase funding for the Ada Jenkins Center in Davidson. The request for additional funding was placed before the board at the behest of Commissioner Brian Hines. The town manager’s budget initially recommended $10K be given to Ada Jenkins (consistent with the amount over the past two years), but Commissioner Hines asked that the full request of $20K by Ada Jenkins be funded. Commissioner Boone later made a recommendation that only $15K be given to Ada Jenkins and this was supported by Commissioners Boone, Bales, Hines, and Walsh – with Commissioners Gibbons and Phillips opposed. Ada Jenkins has provided no specific purpose for which any funding from Huntersville will be used – only that they need the money so they can “continue to provide quality, cost-efficient services to Huntersville residents in need.” Ada Jenkins has paid staff so what guarantee do Huntersville residents have that their tax dollars will even go to “services” and not salaries?

So, why focus on $15,000 out of an operating budget of over $39 million when the money is only going to a nonprofit? Because, (as I’ve said before) every penny spent by the town board is money that could have been put to a more productive use if left in the hands of private citizens. Further, money taken by force and used by government on non-essential functions like charitable giving means less money is available for essential town functions like police, sanitation, fire, or roads and sidewalks.

The comments from the four board members supporting this increase were arguably some of the most disconcerting comments I’ve heard from the dais in a few years, particularly the comments of Commissioner Hines. Between his statements made in support of increased funding for Ada Jenkins and his vote to start a public arts committee, Hines has given up any pretense of being a conservative, much less a fiscally conservative advocate for stewarding taxpayer dollars as advertised on his campaign literature. I understand that not everyone reading this considers themselves a conservative, or even a fiscal conservative, but if you do consider yourself a conservative then be sure to keep this discussion in mind during the next campaign when you hear Commissioner Bales, Boone, or Hines describe themselves as anything even close to conservative (you won’t have to worry about Commissioner Walsh ever describing himself as conservative).

You can listen to the roughly 13-minute discussion beginning at the 20:10 mark here.

After Commissioner Hines introduces the request, Commissioner Bales begins by justifying her support for the increased funding because it’s her understanding that Ada Jenkins provides services that the town could provide so this funding would comply with the new charitable giving policy adopted by the town board in 2016. The only specific example she cites is workforce development. Commissioner Hines then rattles off a list of the services they provide such as community health services, a dental clinic, educational services, and human services (whatever that may be). Later in the discussion both Commissioners Bales and Walsh again repeat this justification about Ada Jenkins providing services that the town would have to provide otherwise, and Commissioner Walsh even makes a misguided attempt to compare funding of Ada Jenkins to funding the non-profit entity that provides fire/EMS services to the town.

Here’s a question for Commissioners Bales, Hines, and Walsh – which specific services provided by Ada Jenkins do you support the town providing directly? [Commissioner Gibbons posed a similar question to the supporting board members, what services does Ada Jenkins provide that the county does not?] Should the town start a dental clinic? Should the town begin paying rent and utility bills for residents? Should the town start a free medical clinic? Or, should the town start a workforce development and job placement program?

Commissioner Hines continued his plea by stating the need for Ada Jenkins is greater than ever and cites their mission of helping individuals build lasting solutions for health, education, and financial stability. I don’t recall Commissioner Hines running for office on a platform of using taxpayer dollars to build lasting solutions for health, education, and financial stability. And if he thinks the need for Ada Jenkins is greater than ever, how much of his own money has he contributed to them in the past year or any year? I’ve asked this question of all four board members in favor of taking money from taxpayers and giving it away to the charity of the board’s choosing and only Commissioner Walsh has responded thus far. Of course, Commissioner Walsh didn’t answer the question of whether he’s given Ada Jenkins any of his own money so I think we can all safely assume what the answer to that question is.

Commissioner Hines goes on to state that the town’s contribution (whatever it ends up being) is only a small part of Ada Jenkin’s $1.5 million budget so “it’s more of a symbolic thing” letting them know we’re supporting you, a thank you… “I think it would be a goodwill gesture to them…” It appears that Ada Jenkins is doing just fine fundraising on its own without taking money from Huntersville. But, more importantly, why does Commissioner Hines think it appropriate to use other people’s money for mere “symbolic” or “goodwill” gestures? It’s noble of people to give to charity with their own money, but it’s immoral when politicians forcibly take money from one person to benefit another under the color of law.

Commissioner Boone interjected his comments (at approx. 26:30 mark) and for one shining moment it sounded as if reason might prevail when he started off by stating the board is pretty quick to just throw $20K or $10K around and it’s not our money to be throwing it like that. Kudos, Commissioner Boone! But, alas, just as quickly he reverted back to sitting on the fence and suggested only giving Ada Jenkins an additional $5K instead of $10K.

I guess every other priority of the town must be fully funded if we have extra money to dole out to select charities of the board’s choosing. If that’s the case, I would suggest we’re being overtaxed. These same four individuals in favor of giving your money to charity also happen to be the same four board members (along with the mayor) who unashamedly take advantage of a subsidized membership at HFFA using $312 of your tax dollars every year (Commissioners Gibbons and Phillips have rejected this subsidy).

For the “it’s just $15K, it’s just a few pennies per resident, it’s no big deal” defenders of this expenditure, let me remind you that taking one penny from someone by force is just as immoral as taking $15K from someone. No one is stopping anyone in Huntersville from giving any of their own money to Ada Jenkins or any other charitable endeavor. If Commissioner Hines tried to take 33 cents (or whatever the actual figure comes to) from every Huntersville resident by force for the benefit of Ada Jenkins he would be guilty of a crime. But, because he can use the power of his elected office to take the money through taxes it’s considered legal.

If you sought elected office because you needed an increased sense of self-worth by giving away other people’s money, please just resign now.

Eric