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County Manager resignation fallout spills over into Haywood Rotary Club

The Waynesville Rotary Club has been caught up in the fallout following the forced resignation of Haywood County Manager Jack Horton.

Horton is president of the Waynesville Rotary Club. Commissioner Kevin Ensley, who voted for Horton’s resignation, is a member of the same Rotary Club.

Following Horton’s resignation in January, a letter calling for Ensley’s resignation was anonymously distributed among Rotary members at the weekly club’s weekly meeting.

“In view of the stand you have taken recently which led to the forced resignation of Jack Horton from his position as county manager, we are asking for your resignation as a member of the Waynesville Rotary Club,” the memo stated.

Several Rotary Club members said they were disappointed by the memo.

“From my standpoint it was not appropriate,” said Jack Suddath, a member of the Waynesville Rotary Club.

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Others agreed.

“I don’t think it has any place,” Jeff Reece, a member of the Waynesville Rotary Club, said of the memo. “I resent them dragging Rotary into this fray.”

Some members said the memo was not in keeping with the mission of Rotary.

“Rotary is a service organization, not a political organization, and while people may have personal feelings on what happened, as a club and board of directors we were not asking him to resign and wanted him to be a part of Rotary,” Bill Hollingsed, president-elect of the club and the Waynesville police chief, said of Ensley.

Other members echoed the non-political nature of Rotary.

“Rotary is a non-political entity,” said Cecil Yount, who serves on the club’s board of directors.

Lynne Barrett, also on the board of directors, cited the club’s motto: “Service above Self.”

“Our goal is being a civic group that focuses on helping the community,” Barrett said.

Four point test

Others say the memo did not single Ensley out for his political actions. Instead, the memo was directed toward Ensley’s attitude, namely public statements Ensley made to the media when interviewed about his reasons for voting to accept Horton’s resignation. (See related article.)

Ensley’s statements to media using “the words ‘dishonesty,’ ‘cannot be trusted’ and the word ‘sneaky’ will not be tolerated within the fellowship of Rotary,” the memo stated.

Andy Anderson, a member of Waynesville Rotary, said Ensley’s comments mischaracterized Horton. Anderson said he thinks a lot of Horton and goes to the same church as him.

“Normally, if I have criticism of a fellow Rotarian, I would do it to his face privately rather than in public,” said Anderson. “There are certain courtesies that we give to each other. You don’t lose faith in a fellow Rotarian unless you do it eye to eye, toe to toe.”

Charles Troutman, the district governor of Rotary who lives in Lenoir, had heard about the memo incident. He said he did not know very much about it, but from what he understood, the memo did not violate Rotary’s stance as a non-political entity. He said the issue wasn’t about politics, but Ensley’s choice of words when explaining why Horton was dismissed from his post.

“My understanding is the concern within the club is not over the fact that Jack was terminated as county manager,” Troutman said. “It stems, as I understand it, from quotes made by Kevin in the paper questioning Jack Horton’s ethics and impugning his character. Some members who know Jack Horton or think highly of him feel the quotes were inaccurate.”

Troutman cited the Rotarian Four-Way test, a credo Rotarians strive to live by: is it the truth, is it fair to all concerned, will it build goodwill and better friendships, and will it be beneficial to all involved.

“These members seem to feel like the quotes attributed to Kevin weren’t the truth, weren’t fair or weren’t beneficial to all involved,” Troutman said.

Others felt the memo wasn’t fair or beneficial to all involved. The memo was signed “Members At Large,” falsely implying that many members share the opinion, according to Suddath.

“If someone is going to write a memo like that, they need to put their name on it,” Suddath said.

The memo, which was addressed and written as if just to Ensley, juxtaposed the club’s perceived support for Horton with dissatisfaction for Ensley.

“A call of support this past Friday for our President Jack Horton in the open meeting by a member of the club evoked a long-standing round of applause,” the memo stated. “Some very harsh statements were directed toward your position.”

The memo was circulated at the club’s meeting on Jan. 13. Horton was given a going away party that day and was not at the meeting. Ensley was not at that meeting either.

As incoming president, Hollingsed felt it was his responsibility to call Ensley and let him know about the memo before rumors reached him. Hollingsed also wanted to express first hand that the club did not want to lose Ensley as a member and he was welcome in Rotary.

Ensley declined to comment for this story. He has not returned to a Waynesville Rotary Club meeting since the memo was circulated, however. Four consecutive absences automatically remove a member from the club’s roster.

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