The Facebook photo that led to the ouster of Asheville’s high-profile entrepreneur developer


Confidential sources have been contacting me today, urging me to tell more of the story behind the ouster of Pam Lewis as director of entrepreneurship at the Buncombe County Economic Development Commission. Here’s what those sources, whom I trust, are telling me. And yes, the story is both as ridiculously silly and gravely serious as it sounds:

At the end of August, Lewis went on vacation with friends Katherine Morosani and Michele Swicegood. (Asheville folks will recognize the names Morosani and Swicegood as names of families who are prominent property owners and developers in town.)

The three went to Barton Springs in Austin, Texas, and Morosani posted the photo above to her Facebook page. The photo came to be seen by a conservative member or members of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, who thought the photo was taken at the recent Asheville topless rally on Pack Square. The county commissioner(s) then urged Buncombe County Manager Wanda Greene to contact Asheville Chamber of Commerce CEO Kit Cramer regarding what was thought to be an inappropriate photo.

Here’s what Morosani posted on her FB page as follow-up:

FYI Fb friends I have been in Austin Texas since Friday. My picture with Pam Lewis was a self shot of us swimming at Barton Springs in Austin Texas not the topless rally in Asheville. — feeling great with Pam Lewis and Michele Swicegood at The Hilton At Downtown Austin,Tx.

There was reportedly a phone call from Cramer to Lewis while Lewis was still on vacation. It didn’t go well. There was a meeting when Lewis returned, a meeting in which Lewis raised her own issues of concern about inappropriate conduct in the economic development office.

The situation continued to devolve, which led to today’s announcement from Kramer that Lewis was no longer working for the chamber. Lewis issued to me a brief statement and referred all other questions to her attorney.

So that’s the backstory that’s developing. Lewis, who has worked tirelessly to boost Asheville’s reputation as a friendly city for entrepreneurs, has many supporters who fear that Lewis’ reputation is being unfairly tarnished. Cramer, in her statement, said she would not comment on the personnel issue.

More as I get it.

UPDATE with clarifications from my sources:

Swicegood was not with Lewis and Morosani at Barton Springs when the now infamous photo was shot. Swicegood was off on her own.

Regarding the phone call: Lewis returned Cramer’s call; Cramer didn’t know Lewis was on vacation in Austin; and Cramer told Lewis she hadn’t seen the photo in question.

Lewis and the chamber parted ways on Sept. 5.



Ashvegas reader to Asheville's Pam Lewis: Start your own organization aimed at helping entrepreneurs October 21, 2013 - 12:57 pm

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Pam Lewis sheds new light on her high-profile dismissal from Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce October 16, 2013 - 4:31 pm

[…] lost her job after tensions between she and Cramer blew up over the posting of an innocent Facebook photo. Click to read the bizarre […]

Bruce Sales October 4, 2013 - 1:24 pm

Pam Lewis works only for the greater good of WNC individuals, business, and community. How could so many wrongs be done to someone so right for WNC?

Chris Larson October 3, 2013 - 1:45 pm

For what it is worth, Asheville, Pam represented y’all phenomenally, making friends and contacts with the city of Austin and our entrepreneurial community. Your Chamber has made a grave error in treating her this way, in my opinion. Assets like this are few and far between.

Chris Larson October 3, 2013 - 1:32 pm

I can personally confirm that Pam, Michele and Katherine were in Austin when the photo was taken. In fact, they contacted me on their way out of Barton Springs to inquire about a could place to eat in the vicinity. (I recommended the Shady Grove, for what that’s worth.)

I saw all three women both before AND after their visit to Barton, here in Austin.

This is disgusting.

Mountain Monkey September 30, 2013 - 1:37 pm

Asheville will never be a Boulder, NYC, Austin or any other leading edge business community because of the local and regional backwards leaders we continue to elect. Pam Lewis was not only a leader but a voice for the regional by her actions that Asheville could be not only competitor for these businesses but THE leader. When are the young leaders of our community going to stand up to the backwards, dumb ass thinking of these local wannabe socialites.

Orbit DVD September 29, 2013 - 9:38 pm

My question is will we have to pay for another legal settlement?

agro September 30, 2013 - 6:28 pm

Ditto, Orbit DVD. This ‘infraction’ by an unnamed Board member(s) is egregious and careless of facts and seeking to hurt someone’s reputation. The very action of a Chamber board member being out on a hunt of others’ personal social media accounts shows how low, obsessed and desperate to get the things they want and at any cost. A little foresight and reexamining one’s HR rulebook would likely have saved the taxpayers here.

And kudos to Gabriel Shaffer. His opinion is a valid one. Like NFB said, these people aren’t brilliant. Kudos for opposing the empire of the Chamber.

This goes back to the LaZoom joke about the ‘municipal nipple’ and the boring box next to it that it came in. Stop being angry at how the city is a secular haven and join in the public dialogue. I’d rather live in a secular haven than live amidst the backward cruelty happening in this county.

And lastly, what the hell does a photo, and whether or not it was taken while nude though depicting no nudity, have anything to do with someone’s professional merit, which is of high esteem in the business community and who is great at their job?

NFB September 29, 2013 - 2:51 pm

Let’s face it. The local Chamber of Commerce has never been known as a center of deep thinkers or intellectual powerhouses. This just reaffirms that.

Lesley Groetsch September 29, 2013 - 2:51 pm

Pam is an asset to any organization she represents. She has an international reputation and a passion for Asheville, innovation and entrepreneurship. She will land on her feet.

She’d make a damn good county manager or chamber CEO. Just sayin’.

Nate September 29, 2013 - 9:47 am

Somehow it feels like there must be a lot of subtext and backstory that’s not being discussed here … the initial “tattling” by alleged Buncombe County commissioners (or possibly just excess “concern” by Wanda Greene being blamed on unnamed commissioners?) is ridiculous and unfortunate, but how did it escalate so quickly? There had to be ongoing conflicts and issues between Cramer and Lewis for this to go so quickly from “foolish misunderstanding” to “everyone’s lawyering up,” right?

Cricket September 28, 2013 - 9:41 pm

I smell a rat.

Someone wanted Pam Lewis out, but to do something like this is unethical and underhanded.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Let the sun shine brightly on this mess!

Puma September 28, 2013 - 9:39 pm

I don’t get it. What’s wrong with the photo? They are obviously laying down on the grass or something, like sunbathing. There must be more to this story because no one would resign over that photo.

Gabriel Shaffer September 28, 2013 - 3:45 pm

And this is why as long as conservative morons are involved in decisions of the chamber I will never join. Somebody needs to clean house on those morons. The right wing has no place in this town. I’m sure there are plenty of communities outside of the city limit where there douchebaggery will fit right in.

Big Al September 29, 2013 - 8:04 pm

So The Right has no right to be in Asheville? How progressive. Now try and make them leave. Last I heard, they have all the guns.

DV September 29, 2013 - 9:14 pm

Big Al,

Nice, you beat me to it. Gabriel Shaffer is another internet tough-guy who must hide behind cyberspace to insult and condemn those who do not agree with his world-view. The fact is that he does not have the balls to speak like that to the face of these “conservative morons”, nor does he have the grammar to know that “they’re” would be appropriate in the last sentence of his post, not “there”. If he spent any time actually looking into the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, instead of making mass generalizations and hurling political epithets, he would learn the following things:
1. The Asheville chamber is regarded as one of the best in all of the southeast and has been nationally recognized.(read: not joining is your loss) 2. There are plenty of liberals at the chamber in key positions. Congrats Gabriel, you seem to have redefined the word “douchebaggery” on

craggybender October 1, 2013 - 9:26 am

I think you mean ‘their’.

Radio Follower September 28, 2013 - 1:48 pm

Seriously? Even if it was a topless rally she was attending, it’s on her OWN TIME! Wow. I do not know Pam Lewis, but know she’s done a lot for tourism in our area. I hope she sticks it to the Chamber. And, if it’s true about a conservative member of the Buncombe County commissioners who started all of this…shame on him/her! How pathetic to know that judging other people is alive and well in our community.

JSC September 28, 2013 - 1:47 pm

Pam has been an amazing force for from the ground up growth and local business development in Asheville… how can one misinformed commissioner force such an inane decision?

Michael September 28, 2013 - 1:39 pm

Hasn’t Wanda Greene recently (in the past two years) been on the wrong end of another meddling of someone’s employment, one that brought legal action against her and the county? Is this another episode in a pattern of behavior for her?
This clearly has nothing to do with a photo. Please look into this more.
..and so much for what would be my future consideration to join that Chamber.

Sam S September 28, 2013 - 12:10 pm

So disappointed in Kit Cramer. I have heard rumors that she is on her way out…I’m sure this opened the door a little wider. Hey Kit, if you are trolling this, I am calling every single Chamber board member on Monday. I’m sure Charlotte will welcome you back with open arms.

Vlad Emrick September 28, 2013 - 11:01 am

There’s got to be more to this story. And we need to know the name of the commissioner who has nothing better to do than troll Facebook and level preposterous accusations.

Sara Day Evans September 28, 2013 - 10:08 am

Pam has been the single most supportive person and local official for the development and launch of our business accelerator. I’ve seen some ill-informed official decisions in my life, but this takes the cake.

Sara D September 28, 2013 - 6:43 am

Which Commissioners brought the false claims to the County Manager? Why is the young lady, who did nothing wrong, called out and the folks who are working to malign her get protection from the media?

Tom Heck September 27, 2013 - 10:52 pm

I’ve had the honor of working with Pam for two years on a TEDx Asheville committee. Everyone I’ve met that knows Pam thinks the world of her. Pam is a shining star and Asheville is lucky to have her. I hope this gets worked out so Pam can get back to work.

Stephanie West September 27, 2013 - 4:51 pm

Pam has done so much for local businesses in Asheville. What a huge loss for the community.

Josie September 27, 2013 - 4:39 pm

Unbelievable. The story just gets worse.

Murphy September 27, 2013 - 3:36 pm


(so what if they were at the topless event it’s not illegal) no one got their Knickers in a twist when sitting Council member Carl “the moral compass” Mumpower attended the event

I can’t believe this is the way local professional and governmental organizations operate in 2013:

trolling social media, spreading rumors; if not outright falsehoods, and whispering behind closed doors…

AVL remains the “Peyton Place” it has always been … .

allegations of “inappropriate conduct in the economic development office” however are serious business.

Mon October 19, 2013 - 10:19 am

Anyone ask why a county commish was out trolling around for Ms. Lewis’ photos? Yuk!

andrew September 27, 2013 - 2:26 pm

Oh please god be true.

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