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Opinion Letters Political danger from ignorance

I want to share with my sister county a speech I [made] before the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. It is self-explanatory on ignorance of political matters, the real danger, whether on the local, state or national level.

Commissioners and fellow citizens:

Please observe the pictures on the board that your tax money of $700,000 is being invested in by Debnam, Cody, and Elders, who vote as one, and control and spend the county tax money. I refer to them as the Trio. The rusted old steam train chassis, engine, running gear, etc., that GSMR abandoned by the railroad tracks in 2006 (to rust out in the weather) was obviously so unprofitable the corporation wouldn’t even borrow money to repair it. The Trio had one agenda: A train deal to bring in Bryson City tourists to spend money in Dillsboro.

At this public hearing, we will decide if the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, L.L.C., should receive a $700,000 incentive loan for 18 years that will never be paid back out of our county tax money, to repair a piece of rusted junk for three years, use our many to upgrade a maintenance shop (tax value, $74,800) and a train turntable (of no value to the county for selling), that is being placed on GSMR owner Al Harper’s privately owned property of 1.79 acres in the Town of Dillsboro. Bear in mind, the Trio, County Counsel Coward and Manager Wooten willingly, knowingly, and deceitfully concealed loan factors from the county citizens that are outright lies and endanger our county tax money. Wooten’s claim of one million collateral on GMSR maintenance yard is a lie. The only collateral is the land on the easel (tax value of $263,560 on 12.33 acres). County loan to GMSR is under collateralized by $436,440. The county has secretly inserted a clause (unknown to citizens) for further loans to construct a turntable on Harper’s private property. A public records request reveals Wooten has no financial data on potential loans, specified cost, or financial background checks on Harper and GSMR. I was directed to Counsel Coward (who makes $200 an hour) who refused to honor a public records request. There is a tangled web of secrecy, illegal and unethical behavior, lack of GSMR debt information, and under collateralized loan that endangers county tax money that should be investigated.

I ask Commissioners Jones and Greene, who have a fiduciary duty to all citizens to request a non-partisan attorney to investigate all aspects of the proposed GSMR loan and to notify immediately the secretary of the local government commission of known irregularities as I shall do.

Marie Leatherwood — Sylva N.C.

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