Fryar apologizes for harsh words, calls for A-B Tech trustees to resign

In a letter sent to several local media outlets, Buncombe County Commissioner Mike Fryar apologized for calling A-B Tech President Hank Dunn a “little Hitler” and a “sick little puppy.”

Fryar made the comments in response to Dunn’s effort to block him from serving on the school’s board of trustees. But the freshman commissioner continues to lambast the president in the new letter, arguing that Dunn acted outside his job description in a way that “undermines the authority of the full Board of Trustees.” Fryar also calls for trustees who worked with Dunn on the maneuver to resign.

Fryar was a strong critic of the college’s 2011 effort, led by Dunn, to seek a quarter-cent sales-tax increase to fund capital improvements. The referendum campaign narrowly succeeded and the tax was levied, but in the months since, Fryar has continued to raise questions over the fairness of the revenue and the buildings A-B Tech plans to build with it. Fryar has also continued to criticize Dunn personally, questioning his leadership of the school and calling for him to be removed.

Fryar was unanimously chosen by the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners to serve on the school’s board of trustees. But before he could take office, Dunn rushed the swearing-in of Madison County Commissioner Wayne Brigman to fill the position. State law limits the number of commissioners who can serve on the board, so the move effectively blocked Fryar’s appointment. In comments to the AC-T, Dunn later admitted to taking the action and argued that it was appropriate for him to advocate for “positive” and “diverse” trustees.

The college’s board of trustees is responsible for hiring and overseeing the school’s president.

Read Commissioner Mike Fryar’s full letter (posted here as written):

To the Citizens of Buncombe County:

I am pleased that the Asheville Citizen-Times has pursued coverage of the ABTech situation in recent days. First of all, I apologize for the use of the “Little Hitler” reference to Dr. Dunn. Two wrongs do not make a right. What I intended to convey was a dictatorial style that does not allow room for different opinions. As a Buncombe County Commissioner who opposed this sales tax being placed in a city election, although it included a tax on all Buncombe County residents, I see my current role as one to oversee the use of these tax dollars in the most economical and beneficial manner. I see ABTech as a great community resource and I want to see it succeed. What I do not want to see happen is that the Board of Trustees gives up its authority in hiring and evaluating the college president. I believe that what Dr. Dunn did in the case of working to keep me off the Board of Trustees was beyond his authority and it undermines the authority of the full Board of Trustees.  From what I understand about the situation, three members of the ABTech organization orchestrated an underhanded process that may have caused the Madison County Commissioners to violate the open meetings law, in an attempt to dictate that I would not have the opportunity to serve on the Board. I saw my service on the Board as an opportunity to provide my opinions directly and in a timely manner regarding the expenditures of the sales tax income. Finally, the phrase “sick little puppy” is a mountain expression to indicate that someone is not doing well, especially in the role they should be fulfilling.

I do believe that two Executive Board members were wrong in helping with this maneuver that prevented myself, or any other Buncombe County Commissioner, from having the opportunity to serve on the AB Tech Board. I feel that those involved should remove themselves from the Executive Board.


Commissioner Mike Fryar

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.

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