A festering dispute between Maggie resident Joe Maniscalco and town employees who feel they have been harassed by him in recent months erupted at the meeting.
Maniscalco has been accused of harassing the town staff through emails and handwritten letters and has been banned from town hall unless he has a police escort.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, former alderman and Maggie resident Colin Edwards took Maniscalco to task.
“He has terrorized the staff, everybody here,” Edwards said. “The employees of Maggie Valley are great employees.”
Maniscalco, who was in audience of the meeting, continued to interject, denying Edwards’ comments, and eventually got up from his seat until the two ended up arguing with their faces inches apart from each other. Police Chief Scott Sutton, former policewoman and Alderwoman Saralyn Price, and a couple of audience members separated the two before either laid a hand on the other.
Maniscalco later said that he repeatedly contacted town employees because he could not get answers to his questions.
“They don’t respond to my faxed letters. So therefore, I have to write a second and third letter,” Maniscalco said. “They are always finding reasons not to respond.”
Town Attorney Chuck Dickson had advised town staff not to reply to Maniscalco’s messages after he threatened to sue the town.
But Maniscalco said he only threatened a lawsuit after town employees ignored his letters.
“They try to word it like I go to town hall and threaten people,” Maniscalco said. “I speak my piece. I speak my rights.”
In the emails and faxed, handwritten letters to town hall employees and the aldermen, Maniscalco accused them of corrupt practices and inappropriate behavior, even accusing one of watching porn on a town computer during work hours.
Following a barrage of letters from Maniscalco, the board of aldermen met in closed session on Nov. 13 to talk about what, if any, action to take. In the end, all the board members agreed to mail a letter to Maniscalco asking him to contact the Maggie Valley Police Department or Aldermen Phillip Wight or Mike Matthews to accompany him if he wanted to visit town hall. And if Maniscalco wanted to request any information, he needed to do so using the police department as a middleman, the letter stated.
Months later, Maniscalco was sent another letter — this time from Police Chief Sutton. The letter stated that Maniscalco failed to follow the terms of the first letter.
“You are banned and trespassed from further visits to Maggie Valley Town Hall, unless your presence is authorized,” the letter read.
It reiterated that Maniscalco must be escorted to and around town hall.
“Failure to comply with the terms of this letter may have definite legal consequences for you, including the possibility of criminal arrest,” Sutton wrote.
A month later, Maniscalco appeared before the town board asking why he is banned and why the police delivered the letter, which warns of legal action. Maniscalco noted that the second letter came a day after he announced his intent to run for the board of aldermen.
Maniscalco said he is being unfairly singled out and picked on because of his New York Italian accent and not being “from here.”
DeSimone said he authorized the police chief to send the letter after Maniscalco neglected to follow the terms of the initial November letter.
Aldermen Wight and Matthews said they were unaware a second letter was sent and condemned it.
“The next letter (that went) out speaks of criminal charges and sounds over the top to me,” Wight said, adding that he any further concerns about Maniscalco should have come back to the whole board.
Although he agreed to send the first letter, Wight said the influx of letters from Maniscalco to the town did not rise to the level of harassment or terrorization.
“It wasn’t threatening. It was accusatory,” Wight said. “Joe has not hurt anybody.”
Matthews questioned the mayor’s authority to send the letter without prior approval from the town board.
“I stand by my authority,” DeSimone replied.
Alderwoman Price sided with DeSimone, saying that the first letter warned Maniscalco that further action would be taken if he did not comply.
“He violated that. He came up here more than one time without police or you all,” Price told Matthews and Wight.
The board went into closed session at the end of the meeting but was split on whether to rescind Sutton’s letter.
The origin story
The bad blood between some Maggie Valley resident Joe Maniscalco and some town leaders and employees can be traced back nearly four years when Maniscalco claims his gated, luxury, mountaintop home was wrongfully annexed into the town limits. Maniscalco last year appealed to the town to undo the annexation of his property, claiming it was wrongfully annexed in 2009.
The Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen last February voted 3 to 2 to de-annex Maniscalco. The matter had to be approved by the state General Assembly, but legislators never voted on it. Maniscalco remains in the town limits, which means paying town property taxes. He has both supporters who think he’s been treated unfairly and critics who think his claim is unfounded.
Read The Smoky Mountain News recount of the matter at www.smokymountainnews.com/news/item/6602-maggie-man-wants-out-in-bid-to-undo-annexation.