Bothwell and Fryar debate ‘parking-gate’ controversy

The so-called “parking-gate” saga continued Aug. 12, as Asheville City Council member Cecil Bothwell and Buncombe County Commissioner Mike Fryar took to the airwaves to spar.

After last week’s Mountain Moral Monday rally, Bothwell said he used his electronic parking pass to let 64 vehicles out of the county parking garage on College Street. The county subsequently billed the council member $512  — the amount that Buncombe officials determined should’ve been paid by the exiting vehicle owners.

In response, Fryar accused Bothwell of stealing from the county and helped alert the media to the incident, which was covered by several local outlets, as well as the Associated Press.

But this morning, Aug. 12, WLOS reported that Fryar “is now facing questions about his own actions at a county-owned parking lot months ago.” Eleven months ago, Fryar removed cables the county had placed at its Coxe Avenue parking lot in order to allow people to park for free.

On the afternoon of Aug. 12, Bothwell, a Democrat, and Fryar, a Republican, traded accusations and defended their actions during an hour-long live interview on “The Pete Kaliner Show” on News Radio 570 WWNC.

Bothwell called Fryar’s allegations “a partisan attack” and, in light of the commissioner’s own actions, questioned his “moral standing” for lodging the complaints.

Bothwell said he used his parking pass to let people out of the garage because the gate was malfunctioning and traffic was backed up. “I thought I’d be thanked for helping solve a problem,” said Bothwell. “I undid a thing that could have lasted two or more hours. It’s not stealing. … To me that’s totally crazy.”

Fryar told Bothwell he should’ve called county staff rather than let people out, accusing the Council member of doing it “for political gain.”

In an email newsletter, Bothwell used the incident to ask supporters for donations to his campaign fund.

“I would never take anything on myself, to let people out,” said Fryar.

Meanwhile, Bothwell lodged similar complaints against Fryar for his move to open the Coxe Avenue lot. “That was not his right to make a change,” said Bothwell. “He took it upon himself to open that parking lot.”

Fryar said he took the cables off in response to complaints from people wanting to park there. “Hopefully it solved a problem,” he said. “I didn’t do it for political gain.”

Fryar said that he recollects talking to County Manager Wanda Greene about it and getting her approval. However, Greene told WLOS: “I told Mike, don’t do it, don’t mess with it, because it would be destruction of county property.”

On “The Pete Kaliner Show,” Fryar said a key difference was that his action didn’t cause the city to lose money. Bothwell countered that it did, because by letting people park in the lot for free against county policy, they weren’t paying the city for parking on the street or in garages.

Noting that he will pay the county’s $512 bill, Bothwell added: “The county is profiting from this, and you’re complaining.”

“Both of us violated county policy without violating the law,” said Bothwell, who noted that in addition to the bill, the county revoked his parking pass.

The county traditionally provides free parking passes to members of Asheville City Council. And the city provides free parking passes to Buncombe County commissioners.

Fryar said he doesn’t think any elected officials should receive free parking passes. Although the passes can be used anytime, he only uses his when he parks in town for official government business rather than recreational events such as basketball games, he said.

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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

4 thoughts on “Bothwell and Fryar debate ‘parking-gate’ controversy

  1. Irienow

    Let’s settle this old school style. Clear out a parking lot and let the two of them have a demolition derby and the winner gets free parking for a year!

  2. RavenRavinoff

    I find it unbelievable that Mike Fryar has admitted to breaking the law, yet not charges have been filed. If it were you or I that was caught breaking into county property we’d be charged with a crime.

    Are Buncombe Co. commissioners above the law?

    I emailed the commissioners asking that very question. Maybe you should, too.

    The Mike Fryar Incident
    Dear Commissioners,

    My name is Sean. I am a small business owner in Asheville and have been a resident of Buncombe Co. for 13 years. I write to you today as an involved citizen with concerns regarding one of your colleagues.

    I read the Asheville Citizen-Times article detailing an incident involving Mike Fryar and was left with several disturbing questions.

    1) Who has the authority to open and/or close county parking lots? I would assume that a commissioner does not in fact have that authority but I defer to your knowledge and experience.

    2) If I, a resident of Buncombe Co., removed barriers to a county owned lot, would I be charged with a crime if caught? If so, what would the crime be?

    From reading the article above detailing the incident I am left with the impression that Commissioner Fryar admitted to removing the parking lot barriers by force even when told not to by the County Manager.

    Therefore, if I would have been charged with a crime for the exact actions admitted to by Mr. Fryar, why then is he not being charged with a crime?

    Are County Commissioners above the law?

    Thank you for your time and continued service to our community.

    Sincerely,

    Sean

  3. Dionysis

    Let’s see now; Bothwell lets cars already parked out saying they were backed up and the gate did not work. Fryer let people in to a paid parking area because they just “wanted to park there” and that was fine. That did not cost the city the parking fee revenue? How so?

    Bothwell is paying the lost revenue himself; Fryer apparently is making up excuses, already refuted (‘pants on fire’), and amazingly fails to see that his behavior was at least comparable to Bothwells, and apparently worse. Bothwell let the cars out to try and solve an immediate problem, Fryer claims he let people in for free (without the claimed permission) to “solve a problem”. Will he also offer to pay the city back for lost revenue? Any bets?

    It’s reasonable to state that neither should have done what they did, but Fryer seems to be at odds with the truth and evidently can not or will not be honest. There is a word forthis.

  4. thatguy

    If this is as deep as Asheville corruption goes, count yourselves lucky.

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