The Richland Hills low-income senior housing development was touted publicly as being under the auspice of the Asheville-based nonprofit Mountain Housing Opportunities, which has built similar projects in Buncombe County.
Behind the scenes, however, two local players are involved in the project: Attorney Rusty McLean and Denise Mathis, the former director of the Haywood County Council on Aging, which collapsed due to financial insolvency. Mathis was charged with embezzlement for allegedly diverting donations to other uses while at the helm of the nonprofit. The charges were later dropped since Mathis had diverted the money to cover the debts of the nonprofit and not for personal gain.
McLean served as Mathis’s attorney in the criminal charges and has since represented her in civil suits seeking damages from those whom she says wrongly accused her. Mathis works in McLean’s law office.
McLean is part of a development company that owns the property where the complex is proposed.
While Mountain Housing Opportunities was the public face of Richland Hills, a second entity called VIA Community Network was listed as a key partner in the project in the application for tax credits. Mathis is listed as the registered agent for VIA Community Network, which is described in N.C. Secretary of State filings as a nonprofit formed for charitable and religious purposes.
The same day VIA Community Network was created in December 2008, an LLC called VIA Community Development was also formed. Mathis is again listed as the registered agent for the entity. McLean is listed as a member. Mathis’s home address and McLean’s law firm are listed as the office addresses for both entities.
VIA Community Development, an LLC in which McLean is a member, is the entity slated to purchase the property owned by McLean for $950,000.