Ashvegas Political Hit List: Buncombe DA dispute, Turner takes oath, more


By James Harrison

Happy New Year, Hit List aficionados! Who knows what 2015 has up her sleeve? Get acclimated with a full plate of local, state and federal news for the start of the new year.

APD anaylsis

Let’s just hope 2015 is better for the Asheville Police Department than 2014. Before Christmas, Asheville Citizen-Times investigative reporter Jon Ostendorff published a three-part series examining the troubled department, its perception among the community and its outlook for the future. The reports come out as the department is facing an internal certifications audit, a state standards inquiry and the possibility of losing its voluntary accreditation. Not to mention a host of recent officer resignations, accusations of retaliation from a pair of officers who voiced concerns over management, and a petition signed by 44 officers saying they had no confidence in former Chief William Anderson. Anderson stepped down last month, and a national search for replacement is ongoing. Former Santa Cruz, California chief Steve Belcher will begin serving as interim chief on Jan. 19. Read Ostendorff’s reports here (part 1), here (part 2) and here (part 3).

DA dispute

Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams was greeted with scrutiny at his new job this week, after it was revealed he hired a senior level assistant with a DWI conviction. Williams hired Rodney Hasty, former prosecutor who was convicted of driving while impaired after wrecking his car while taking prescription drugs for a medical condition in 2009. He is no longer on the medication. In a written statement, Hasty said he hoped the situation would be an opportunity to raise awareness of the dangers of prescription drugs, and in a Citizen-Times interview, Williams characterized Hasty’s story as one of “redemption.” Both Williams and Hasty were sworn into their positions Jan. 1.

Board of commissioners goes to the dogs

Buncombe County dogs got a new leash on life this week, as Commissioners voted to approve the minimum dog tethering length from 10 feet to 15 feet. Along with tethering, equine housing and defining animal neglect were all on the agenda at the year’s first meeting. The group voted 4-3 along party lines to adopt changes to the county’s animal control ordinance, with all Democrats voting in favor of the measure. Due to the split, the item will be discussed once more at a future meeting. The group also voted to approve funds for hiring 23 additional staff at the Department of Health and Human Services. For a detailed recap of the meeting, see Cameron Huntley’s report in Mountain Xpress.

Turner takes the oath

After unseating former state Rep. Tim Moffitt last fall, state Rep. Brian Turner took the oath of office for the District 116 seat in a ceremony Thursday. In a news release, Turner explained why he felt it was important to have a “local” swearing in. Both he and new Rep. John Ager head to Raleigh for their new jobs next week. In a sit down with Citizen-Times reporter Mark Barrett, both representatives offered insight as to how they’ve been preparing for the roles, and what they expect to experience once session convenes.

Medicaid a maybe

Could it happen? Gov. Pat McCrory hinted repeatedly this week at the possibility of North Carolina adopting a state-specific plan for expanding Medicaid, during a trip to Washington, D.C. During his journey, the governor met with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office. Following the meeting, McCrory said the president was receptive to his ideas on the state potentially being granted a federal waiver on Medicaid reform.

Governor guarded on payouts

The governor continues to defend his accepting of a six-figure stock payout after taking office, and went head to head with an AP reporter who inquired on the topic this week. For video of the governor’s sparring, click here. Speaking of reporters getting under the governor’s skin, another AP scribe who drew McCrory’s ire over last month’s stock payout story recently won a prestigious award for North Carolina reporting. So there’s that.

New poet

Remember the flap over McCrory’s nominee for poet laureate? The governor made good on his new pick for the position late last month, tapping UNC-Pembroke English professor Shelby Stephenson as the state’s next distinguished poet. Read up on Stephenson here.

Meadows makes a move

One of only 25 House members to defect from leadership, U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows was voted against John Boehner for Speaker of the House this week. The move, reflective of attitudes among conservatives on Capitol Hill, could potentially jeopardize the congressman’s appointments on various committees. Through a spokesperson, Meadows said he expected no retribution from Boehner for not voting in support of his leadership.

Tillis hits the Hill

His next election is six years away, but already U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis is already receiving contributions from PACs far and wide. He’s also taken steps to form his own political action committee—THOMPAC. The senator was sworn in Tuesday, as one of a dozen freshmen GOP members in the upper chamber. For an interview on Tillis’ thoughts as he assumes the new role, see this report in the Charlotte Business Journal.

Burr speculation

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr took the helm of the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee this week, but before he could even be appointed to his new post, the list of potential challengers for his seat in 2016 to was the story. For a list of possible candidates, which includes former WNC Rep. Heath Shuler, see this Raleigh News & Observer report.

Extended Interviews

Tillis, Burr, McHenry and Meadows all took time to sit for interviews this week on Capitol Tonight, a politics segment produced by a Charlotte news station. The interviews offer an on-site window into the perspectives of the lawmakers as they begin new terms.

Hagan pool

And just when we thought we were done hearing about former U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, POLITICO drops her name in one of the weirdest ledes of the new year. “Kay Hagan just wanted to swim,” the fascinating piece, titled “The Secret History of Women in the Senate,” begins. “It was late 2008, and the Democrat was newly arrived on Capitol Hill as North Carolina’s junior senator-elect. But Hagan was told that the Senate pool was males only. Why? Because some of the male senators liked to swim naked.” How bout that! Who were those skinny dipping senators? People have been trying to figure it out, with Jimmy Fallon perhaps coming closest to to giving us a clue of who it might’ve been.

That’s all for now! See ya next week.

 James Harrison recently returned to Asheville after working as a government reporter for, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Follow him on Twitter at @jharrisonAVL.


Big Al January 13, 2015 - 9:56 am

“…Rodney Hasty, former prosecutor who was convicted of driving while impaired after wrecking his car while taking prescription drugs for a medical condition in 2009.”

Why is this a legal/ethical matter? Mr. Hasty was taking a LEGALLY PRESCRIBED medication, not drinking alcohol or taking illicit substances before getting behind the wheel. Unanticipated side effects happen to the best of us. Unless someone can prove that Mr. Hasty deliberately took medication in an illegal or unsafe manner, this incident should not factor into his ability to interpret the law.

Barry Summers January 13, 2015 - 11:18 am

I completely agree, Big Al.

Stewart January 12, 2015 - 9:20 am

Great analysis, this is my favorite part of Ashvegas.

I’d like to note that the changes to the animal control ordinance (Board of commissioners goes to the dogs) are not a step forward for dogs. A longer chain is still a chain, and it is time Buncombe join Asheville and the growing list of cities and counties that are banning the chaining of dogs. The commissioners were asked to do so, and were provided with much information explaining why this in not only a humane issue, but also a public safety issue (see They ignored the pleas of those in the community offering to step up and help in the transition to a chain free Buncombe.

When I first started researching ordinances banning chaining, I expected to find that they were being enacted in progressive areas on the west and east coasts. I was surprised to learn that most bans are in the rural south. Why? Because chained dogs are unsocialized and thus aggressive. If humans get too close to a chained dog, or a dog gets loose, people get attacked. Politicians are all too often reactive rather than proactive. So they pass a ban after someone is mauled or killed. Is that what it will take before the Buncombe County commissioners act? The commissioners will probably be tripping over each other to pass a ban once we have a dead kid or grandmother. How sad. We need leadership, not politicians bowing to the demands of hunters. We can do better.

Tim Peck January 11, 2015 - 12:10 pm

“The City of Asheville has taken money from the water system to run city government…I think the city of Asheville is going to have a hard time moving any agenda it has,” McGrady said.

Barry Summers January 11, 2015 - 1:38 pm

How long will people keep flogging this lie? Asheville, like any City, is allowed by law to charge water ratepayers the costs of operating the water system. Period. That’s all that they do. And Chuck himself acknowledged that on the record at MSD, Nov. 2012: (drag & drop)

But some people think that City shouldn’t be allowed to do this, and that Asheville taxpayers should foot the entire bill for operating the water system, leading to a defacto rate increase just for City residents, and lower rates for County customers. The mentality that thinks that this is fair is based on unreasoning hatred for the City of Asheville.

Going back into the past, during the years of the Water Agreement, Buncombe County took money out of ratepayer revenues at the same proportion that the City of Asheville was. But that part always gets left out…

Thankfully, (Republican) Superior Court Judge Howard Manning saw through the spurious and unconstitutional arguments of Mssrs. Moffitt, Ramsey, and McGrady, and ruled that the City should keep its water system. And Buncombe County voters (including, necessarily, a fair number of Republicans) threw Moffitt and Ramsey out of office.

As for Chuck, I had to laugh out loud at this line in the ‘Hendersonville Lightning’:

“A big difference is McGrady has never been antagonistic toward the city.”


Tim Peck January 12, 2015 - 8:16 am

He who laughs last, laughs harder.

Where’s that cat?

Stewart January 9, 2015 - 6:04 pm

Great summary, this is my favorite part of Ashvegas. I would like to note that the change to the animal control ordinance is not a step forward for dogs. The Commissioners were asked to follow the lead of Asheville and other cities and counties across the U.S. and ban chaining. Instead they bowed to the hunters and other animal abusers and let the chaining continue. This is not humane, we can do better. To learn more, and to see the pleas to ban chaining that were ignored by the Commissioners, visit the website of Chain Free Asheville at This group was the force that worked to ban chaining in Asheville and they provided the support system to help make it happen and make it a success. There was great community support to do the same in Buncombe County. But the people were ignored.

When I first started researching chaining bans, I expected them to be primarily in progressive areas, like on the two coasts. I was surprised to learn that most of the ordinances that ban chaining are in the rural south. Why? Because chained dogs are often unsocialized and thus aggressive, and they attack people who come too close to the chains. Or they get loose and then attack someone. Laws often gets passed after someone is harmed or killed. It is sad that so many elected officials are reactive instead of proactive. Do we have to wait until a kid or grandmother gets killed in Buncombe County before they will ban chaining?

Melissa January 9, 2015 - 1:19 pm

Great roundup, James!

AVL-fan January 9, 2015 - 2:34 pm

I’ll second that, good stuff for us wonks. I hope this will be a regular post on A-Vegas. Where else are you doing your work? Thanks.

James January 9, 2015 - 2:56 pm

Thanks! I sometimes freelance for Carolina Public Press.

Post Comment