Political wrangling and a series of apologies continue in the case of Buncombe County Commissioner Mike Fryar’s blocked appointment to the A-B Tech board of trustees. Earlier this month, A-B Tech President Hank Dunn rushed the swearing-in of Madison County commissioner Wayne Brigman; the move negated Fryar’s appointment because state law allows just one local commissioner at a time to serve.
In an interview with the Asheville Citizen-Times, Dunn acknowledged the Brigman appointment was meant, in part, to block Fryar and instead appoint board members who are more supportive of the college.
Fryar has often criticized Dunn’s leadership and, in 2011, fought a quarter-cent sales tax that funds improvements at the school. Still, he was nominated unanimously by his fellow commissioners to represent Buncombe on A-B Tech’s board. Fryar responded to Dunn’s maneuver by calling him a “little Hitler” and a “sick little puppy.”
In a letter later sent to several local media outlets, Fryar apologized for the name-calling, but said Dunn’s move was “underhanded” and “undermines the authority of the full board of trustees.” Among its duties, the A-B Tech board is responsible for hiring and overseeing the school's president. Fryar called for trustees involved in Dunn’s actions to resign.
In a subsequent development, former Buncombe Commissioner Nathan Ramsey, a freshman state legislator, sponsored a bill that could clear the way for Fryar’s appointment: If passed, it would allow two local commissioners to serve on A-B Tech’s board. Ramsey told the C-T, “If there were no controversy … this bill is still needed.” Bill co-sponsors were Reps. Tim Moffitt, also of Buncombe, and Michele Presnell, whose district includes Madison County.
Meanwhile, the A-B Tech board held a special meeting March 21. The next day, Dunn issued a statement: “I made a mistake. Although I was concerned with the best interest of the College from a philosophical standpoint, I truly regret [it]. The board [of trustees] welcomes differing opinions and the free exchange of ideas resulting in what is best for the College, [and] I fully appreciate the right of appointing entities to designate individuals to serve on the Board.”
— Reporter Jake Frankel contributed to this report. News Editor Margaret Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 251-1333, ext. 152.