Political email to Chamber list generates controversy

Council member Elissa Yount replies

At 11:49 a.m. today, Home in Henderson received the following email directed towards members of the Henderson-Vance Chamber of Commerce:


September 25, 2007

Dear fellow Henderson-Vance County Chamber of Commerce Members:

As a fellow member of the Chamber of Commerce, you are heavily invested in the economic health and vitality of our area. It is quite apparent that our area and its citizens are dealing with challenging economic times as a result of changes in the global economy that has resulted in a significant loss of jobs in our area. However, our hope for the future lies in Henderson’s effort to present ourselves in a positive light as a community that cares about its citizens and strives to provide area residents with quality of life services, educational opportunities and programs that not only benefit its citizens but will, resultantly also help to attract new businesses and industries to our area. This, quite frankly, is not what has been happening these past two years. Expansion of our tax base and providing jobs for our citizens is, ultimately, the only way to avoid higher and higher local taxes and continuing economic weakness.

As a locally based owner of a business established here in 1985, I am very concerned over the lack of support from the City of Henderson for funding of joint City/County programs, as both voiced and voted on by City Council members Elissa Yount (Ward 3 At Large), Lynn Harper (Ward 2 at large), Bobby Gupton (Ward 2) and Ranger Wilkerson (Ward 4 At Large). As you may or may not know, the 4 councilpersons listed above are members of the City Council budget committee that recommended an across the board 12.5% decrease in funding for all City/County jointly funded programs that includes, the Perry Library, Henderson/Vance Recreation Department, the Aycock recreational complex and Emergency 911 services for the 2007-2008 budget. All of this was proposed without ever consulting with the County Commissioners, who jointly fund these programs with the City. Although this action was ultimately defeated, the Council still voted to cut Library funding and they plan, if re-elected, to work to cut City funding for all of these critical, quality of life programs jointly funded by the City and County by 12.5 % per year, until the City no longer provides any support for all of these critical programs. While trying to “save their way” to significant capital improvement needs facing the City (such as improvement/replacement of our City’s sewer plant), these same 4 councilpersons voted in December of 2005, to fire our Federal lobbyist, the Ferguson Group, who had already obtained $4.5 million in grants for the City of Henderson, over their 3 year tenure, including $1.5 million for our Kerr Lake regional water system, and $2.0 million for the Perry Library. Considering that our total expenditure for these grants was approximately $72,000 per year, this represents an extremely strong return on our investment. Nevertheless, they were fired because Elissa Yount, in her motion to fire the Ferguson group, stated “we can use the money to pay the interim City Manager”. Ferguson, just this summer, obtained over $27 million in Federal Grants for 7 NC communities for water and sewer infrastructure upgrades, a Federal bill that most certainly the City of Henderson could have been a part of if our Council had continued Ferguson’s contract. These type of critical missteps cannot be allowed to continue if Henderson is to move forward as a community.

I believe strongly that Henderson needs a NEW DIRECTION. One built on positive cooperation with each other; sound, professional, financial management of our citizens’ tax dollars and collaborative efforts with our fellow elected officials at the County. Our City Council election on Tuesday, October 9th is a critical one for the future of Henderson. If you are a resident of the City of Henderson I ask that you get out and encourage your employees to get out and vote for Mike Inscoe (Ward 2 At Large), Mike Rainey (Ward 2), Brenda Peace (Ward 3 At Large) and George Daye (Ward 4 At Large) along with re-election of Bernard Alston (Ward 1 At Large), Mary Emma Evans (Ward 1), Gary Daeke (Ward 3) and Lonnie Davis (Ward 4). Pete O’Geary is the right choice to be our next Mayor. Please Vote for a positive change and for these candidates that want to move this fair City forward in a positive manner.

Thank you,

Rick Palamar, President
Chase Development Company

At 4:16 p.m. yesterday, this reply was sent to Chamber members by Henderson City Council member Elissa Yount:

Sometimes you have the hit the ball you are pitched and Mr. Palamar has pitched a very foul ball my way in his letter to all the Chamber of Commerce members. While he has the perfect right to his opinions, he should not expect to go unchallenged when he makes incorrect, false, and misleading statements.

It is not true that I am a member of what he calls the budget committee. While I think they have done a remarkable job in bringing our city back from the brink of financial ruin, and while I would proudly take this credit, I must correct Mr. Palamar as he has put out incorrect information.

He is also wrong and it is untrue and blatantly unfair to infer that our council does not care about its citizens and has not tried to provide quality of life services over the past two years. Anyone who has any knowledge of their city government knows that this council has worked on everything from closing Beacon Light, to cleaning up junk yards, to improving neighborhood policing, to requiring decent housing, to paving streets, to repairing sewers and the list can go on and on.

Mr. Palamar asserts that we made decisions without ever consulting the county commissioners on joint funding. This is not the complete truth. The city council made many overtures to the commissioners asking them to meet with us and they would not comply. Because they would not meet with us, does not mean that they were unaware of the city’s position on joint funding. I believe it is because they were aware that they refused our meeting offers. Mr. Gupton had done such a good job of educating the tax payers about inequities in joint funding, and I am sure the county commissioners had paid attention. Mr. Palamar was at the forum last Sunday when I read from an e-mail that I received from Terry Garrision that spoke to this issue. Thus, Mr. Palamar should have first-hand knowledge that discussions were going back and forth with county commissioners.

I challenge Mr. Palamar to prove that I have stated that if re-elected I plan to cut 12.5% of all budgets. This is not true. On the contrary, many of us have stated time and again that we want to fund fully all the joint projects through our county taxes. I have even proposed that it will be much easier at budget time for the joint funded ventures to receive an increase in their budgets with a joint-fund tax line for all tax payers and have personally asked members of the library board to help us bring this about because it will help them.

Mr. Palamar called it a critical misstep not to renew the contract with the Ferguson Group. Mrs. Harper has already corrected the errors put out about this. I will, however, if asked, address this in a separate article as misinformation on this issue needs to be silenced once and for all and truth is a powerful silencer.

Finally, while it is appropriate for Mr. Palamar to have his opinions and to voice his opinions to you in any way he feels is professional, I would question the ethics of asking an employer to influence the way an employee should vote. This could be construed as a violation of the Voting Rights Law. . I can well remember a time when the boss-man spoke and the tenant, or mill hand, or employee, or sharecropper did as they were told. Is it too much to hope that those days are far, far behind us?

I realize that if you are a do-nothing council person, then at election time there is very little to challenge you on. Since Mr. Palamar has so much to challenge me on, he must believe that I have had my hand in a lot of the progress the city has enjoyed in the last two years. I am proud of my work on the council. I am proud that I have worked to level the playing field in this city. I am proud that our city is on the road to recovery. I am proud that you now know more about your city government.

Some of us on the council are facing unfair, unjust, and untrue criticism. But, our credibility will survive these attacks because we have openly and in a professional way, worked diligently to make Henderson better– not for our own pocketbooks, prestige, and power—but better for all who live in our great city.

I have hit the foul ball back to Mr. Palamar. While I do not enjoy being in his game or following his game plan, I find that as an elected official, I must help keep the score correct.

Elissa Yount
September 25, 2007
4:00 pm

At time of publication, at least one other person had replied to Palamar’s email.