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.