Haywood commissioners issue joint statement on Ramey
Republican Commissioner Terry Ramey should pay his taxes and stop threatening the media for reporting on the issue, according to a rare joint statement issued by the other four Republicans on the Haywood County Board of Commissioners.
“An election was held and 26,927 voters cast a ballot. Of those, 13,498 (50.13%) voted to elect Mr. Ramey. The issue about his taxes had been reported and printed in the press prior to the election. Our taxes support our schools, community college, EMS, fire departments, sheriff’s department, library, mandated state/federal programs and many other initiatives that enhance our quality of life,” reads the statement, sent to The Smoky Mountain News by Chairman Kevin Ensley on Jan. 11 and bearing the names of fellow commissioners Jennifer Best, Tommy Long and Brandon Rogers. “Our opinion is that, as an elected official, we should be an example and promptly pay our taxes.”
On Sept. 28, 2022, The Smoky Mountain News first reported that a candidate for Haywood County Board of Commissioners, Terry Eugene Ramey, owed thousands in back taxes to the county, with at least one bill dating back to 2012. This fiscal year, the county will collect more than $52 million in property taxes — by far its largest source of income.
At that time, Ramey said he’d pay the bills if they were valid. A subsequent review of the bills with the county’s tax assessor determined that the bills are indeed valid. On Nov. 8, 2022, Ramey earned enough votes to claim the last of three contested seats, despite his delinquencies.
As of Jan. 10, Ramey still has 13 outstanding tax bills in Haywood County totalling more than $2,500.
Since being sworn into office on Dec. 8, Ramey has cast 13 votes, some of them concerning more than $38,000 of taxpayer money — all without paying his own taxes.
Ramey has repeatedly threatened multiple individuals at The Smoky Mountain News for bringing light to his delinquencies, both before and after the election.
“It is never acceptable for public officials to threaten the press,” the commissioners’ statement reads. “The Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press. This was granted along with the other amendments to protect the Republic and everyone’s freedoms. Newspapers have ‘letters to the editor’ for an elected official, or anyone for that matter, to refute what they believe to be misinformation.”
When asked if they thought Ramey should recuse himself from board votes until he pays his taxes, or resign, commissioners said that it was up to the public to demand those outcomes.
“The voters of Haywood County elected Mr. Ramey and he will have to face them,” they said. “The county commission has a public comment session at every regular board meeting. If Haywood County voters have lost their trust in him, then they have the opportunity to voice whether or not a resignation is in order.”
Now that Ramey receives a paycheck — about $1,000 a month — from the very county he’s been stiffing on tax bills for the past 11 years, there’s been talk about garnishing those wages.
When asked if the county should take that step, commissioners deferred to the county’s tax collector.
On Jan. 11, Republican Tax Collector Sebastian Cothran said that he wouldn’t garnish Ramey’s earnings because Ramey had signed up for a payment plan.
“Usually if they're working with us, we wouldn't do that,” Cothran said.
Details of the plan, made available to SMN by Cothran, state that Ramey is to pay $300 a month until the debts are fully paid. In the interim, he’ll be charged .75% interest per month, and 2% each January, should the debts last that long. Both rates are set by state statute.
That means Ramey should have his debts paid off by this coming December, if he doesn’t miss any payments or make any additional payments.
During that time, county commissioners will work on and vote to implement the county’s next budget, likely nearing the $100 million range.
Commissioner Terry Ramey's delinquent tax bills, as of Jan. 17, 2023.