Residents ask why commissioner is still on Tryon council

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, February 23, 2017

Marilyn Doheny was one of several speakers Tuesday night questioning Tryon Town Council on a few issues, including commissioner Roy Miller’s status after the town fired fire chief Joey Davis for using town credit cards to pay some of Miller’s personal bills. The meeting drew about 50 people. (photo by Claire Sachse)

Marilyn Doheny was one of several speakers Tuesday night questioning Tryon Town Council on a few issues, including commissioner Roy Miller’s status after the town fired fire chief Joey Davis for using town credit cards to pay some of Miller’s personal bills. The meeting drew about 50 people. (photo by Claire Sachse)

TRYON – A few Tryon residents questioned Tryon Town Council this week regarding town commissioner Roy Miller and the firing of fire chief Joey Davis.

Tryon Town Council met Tuesday, Feb. 21 in front of approximately 50 residents.

During citizen comments, three residents grilled council with questions about Miller, including whether or how Miller can be removed from office.

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Tryon Town Manager Zach Ollis fired Davis Jan. 27 for using town credit cards to pay some of Miller’s bills.

Miller did not attend Tuesday’s council meeting.

Resident Sam Lovelace stood during the citizen comment period at the end of the meeting and asked why commissioner Miller was not at the meeting and why he is still on council.

“I don’t understand why Roy Miller is not here,” Lovelace said. “I don’t understand why Roy Miller is still on this council. He has admitted that he does not live in this county much less this town.”

Lovelace said the tax office “backs that up.”

She also said Miller has admitted he committed social security fraud and has been convicted of credit card fraud in the past.

Lovelace was referring to Miller’s guilty plea in 2013 of misdemeanor conspiracy to defraud the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Miller said at the time he would not resign as commissioner, and he explained that the incident occurred because he took a homeless person to a local store to buy groceries and the store would not allow that person to come in. Miller said during a town meeting at the time that he went into the store with the homeless person’s EBT card and pin number and purchased items for that person.

There is no local or state law regarding elected officials being convicted of or pleading guilty to a misdemeanor having to step down from office. If an elected official pleads guilty or is convicted of a felony, however, that elected official would become disqualified from continuing to serve under the North Carolina Constitution, Article VI, Section 8, which states that a person is disqualified for elective office if he/she “has been adjudged guilty of treason or any other felony against this state or the United States.”

Tryon attorney Bailey Nager said Tuesday that as a matter of North Carolina law, a governing body does not have the ability to remove a commissioner.

“A commissioner can remove themselves, or they can be removed by being convicted of a felony,” Nager said.

Tryon Mayor Alan Peoples said he called an elected official in the county and he was told the same thing.

On whether or not Miller lives in Tryon, Peoples said that is not verified.

“So if you do not live in this county and you do not live in this town, you cannot be on this board?” Lovelace asked. “Well, I think that’s a significant point.”

Resident Marilyn Doheny said, “I cannot even talk I am so livid about some of the things that are not being done.” Doheny was speaking of issues brought up about the Eastside community, as well as what she referred to as a “misappropriation of funds.”

“I quote you less than an hour ago,” Doheny said to Peoples. “When you want to get something done make a lot of noise and write a lot of letters.”

Doheny asked what kind of noise the town would like residents to make and where to send letters. Commissioner Bill Ingham asked Doheny what subject she was referring. Doheny said she was referring to “the misappropriation of funds.”

“It’s under investigation, Marilyn,” said Ingham.

Peoples said he’s known about this since September.

“Because I was told something,” Peoples said. “I was told what I could and could not do, and you know what? I understood, so I didn’t.”

Doheny said it sounds like a system.

“It sounds like a system that’s working to me,” Peoples said.

“It doesn’t sound like a system that’s working to me,” Doheny replied.

Peoples said the reason is because it’s not working as fast as Doheny wants it to.

“It’s also not working as fast as I want it to,” Peoples said.

Ingham said it’s under investigation and the town is not allowed to speak about it even if they know anything.

“I don’t know any more than you do,” Ingham said.

Doheny replied, “That’s sad.”

Ingham said he’s spoken to the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) and council is not allowed to talk about it.

“It’s an investigation going on by the law enforcement agency that asked us not to speak about it and that’s what I’m doing,” Ingham said. “I’m sorry Marilyn. Things will work out. I can’t answer it tonight, it can’t be answered tonight.”

Ingham said if Doheny has any information she can call the SBI.

Resident Peter Piacente asked if the investigation isn’t over why would someone be fired.

“If it’s an ongoing investigation why would someone be fired or terminated instead of laid off or suspended?” Piacente asked. “I don’t understand that. And did the suspension and the firing have the blessing of the mayor and the board and the town attorney?”

Peoples said the fire chief works for the town manager.

Ingham said there was enough information for firing.

“We have told you what we can tell you,” said Peoples. “I don’t know how many ways I have to say that. I can’t tell you no more. I can’t tell you no more. They can’t tell you no more.”

Ollis said he has no comment about the matter right now. He said everyone should let the investigation play out.

“I know there’s a lot of hurt feelings and a lot of issues going on in the town,” Ollis said. “So as far as that goes we’re just trying to move the town forward, move the fire department forward, one cohesive unit, and from there I have no comment in regards to anything else.”

Billy Moss, who said he worked for the town for 30 years also briefly spoke on the subject Tuesday night. Moss said if enough people want Miller to be recalled they should write and tell the town they want a recall vote.

Commissioner Bill Crowell said North Carolina doesn’t allow for recall votes. Crowell said people have to wait until someone’s term is up and at that point they can vote someone out.

Miller was re-elected as a commissioner in 2015. His term expires in 2019.

North Carolina does not provide for recall votes but out of 552 municipalities throughout the state, 20 have local level recall provisions in their charters and ordinances. While none of Polk County’s three towns have the recall provision, the City of Asheville is listed as one of the 20 towns that does.

The Bulletin asked Miller questions on Wednesday morning, including why Miller was not present at Tuesday’s meeting, if he plans on attending future meetings and where he resides.

Miller responded, “I have no comment for opinions and people’s beliefs.”

Tryon has received two letters from Davis’ attorney, Stephen Lindsay, recently. The first threatens a lawsuit if the town does not reinstate Davis on paid administrative leave until the investigation is complete. A story about the second letter will be published in the Weekend Edition.

The Bulletin live streamed the council meeting on Facebook, which is still available for viewing.