Tim Lea’s 2012 rhetoric doesn’t match up with his record



Facts can be an inconvenient thing for politicians.  Most like to say whatever will please the crowd right in front of them AT THAT MOMENT.  The introduction of The Internet — and Google — into our culture helped make it a lot easier to call them out on their inconsistencies, exaggerations, and OUTRIGHT LIES.

For example, let’s take a look at Moore County commissioner Tim Lea.  Over the last few months, we’ve been treated to story after story — in our Peabody Award-winning, New York Times best-selling thrice weekly local paper —  detailing Lea’s alleged outrage over the potential violation of the “sanctity”  of the property adjacent to the Veterans Memorial in Carthage.  A developer inquired about purchasing the county owned parcel of property adjacent to the war memorial for the possible construction of a Bojangles restaurant.  Lea — and his useful tools in The Pilot newsroom — launched an offensive insinuating that construction of the restaurant adjacent to the memorial would be a slap in the face to all Moore County veterans.

Lea had a small group of friends — who happened to be affiliated with veterans groups — to show up at commissioner meetings and attack Lea’s colleagues for daring to even consider the sale.  And The Pilot stenographers were there in the front row, taking dictation on it all.

Well, let’s check in with our friends at Google.  If you run a search, you will find an old article from The Pilot talking about building a county government office building:

[…] Lea said the county should at least consider the practicality of using the Carriage Oaks property, which the county already owns, for the government office building. This would free space in the Grimm tract for the detention center-public safety building and provide plenty of space for future expansion of those facilities and for construction of a new courts building at some point in years to come.

[…] The analysis of the 21.5-acre Carriage Oaks complex says the site has the advantages of easy access to major highways, U.S. 15-501 and N.C. 24-27, a generally flat topography, and suitable soils for construction. Another major advantage is its ownership by the county.

However, the site does have some wetlands, and LandDesign pointed out that parking issues must be addressed in the future.

Carriage Oaks, a former shopping center, was purchased in the 1990s for the Department of Social Services, which had been scattered into three or four different buildings in various parts of Carthage and Pinehurst for a number of years. The property included the building formerly used as a shopping center, which was renovated to accommodate social services. The rest of the building was rented to private businesses.

Since that time, the private tenants have largely vacated the building, and the county has moved the Department of Planning and Community Development, the Environmental Health unit and the wellness program into the building. Only one or two private tenants remain.

The county’s plan calls for Environmental Health and Planning to be moved into the new office building. That would free space in the former shopping center building for DSS expansion.

However, Lea said the Carriage Oaks property is large enough for the office building and that parking arrangements can be worked out.

One corner of the Carriage Oaks property was given by the county to the Moore County Veterans Memorial Committee, which has constructed a memorial on the site to all veterans with county connections. The memorial was dedicated three years ago.

So, we’ve got all of this concern about the “sanctity” of the memorial in 2012, but we’re not hearing ANYTHING about it in 2009. Could the reason be that Lea’s arch-enemy #1 Larry Caddell is currently board chairman, and arch-enemy #2 Nick Picerno is up for reelection in November? Could this current rant be part of a plan to generate bad press for those two men and embarrass them?

A three story county government office building would take up more space and draw more people to the property than a Bojangles.  Construction of that massive office building would surely disturb the property a lot more than a restaurant would.  How does a county government office building ADD to the “sanctity” of the war memorial? 

A Google search of The Pilot’s archives also shoots holes in Lea’s current claim that he is a fiscal conservative.  First, let’s look at the Bojangles “controversy.”  Lea FAVORED keeping the property under county ownership and building a county government building on it.  He OPPOSED selling the land to a private developer to build a private business that would (1) create jobs, (2) take an expense off the county’s books, and (3) add to the tax base of Carthage and Moore County.  That doesn’t sound so conservative to me.

Amid his sermons about fiscal conservatism, Lea neglects to mention that he voted in favor of a land transfer tax, as well as three additional new methods for taxing the good people of Moore County.  In a 2008 candidate questionnaire for the Moore County Chamber of Commerce, Lea spoke about “needed tax increases” and championed his support of a county sales tax.  The last county budget Lea voted to approve included an increase in the property tax rate. 

During a 2008 candidate forum, Lea expressed support for a county sales tax.  (Then-candidate Nick Picerno was quoted in the article as opposing a county sales tax.)

The Pilot has also detailed many a rant by Lea and his groupies decrying the cost of the new public safety center in Carthage.  Anyone familiar with construction knows that the cost of a project is determined in the design phase.   A 2008 Pilot article detailed how Lea served on the task force that picked the public safety center, and includes comments from Lea suggesting an endorsement of the architect firm.

It’s unfortunate that I have to do The Pilot’s job for it.  As you evaluate the candidates in the run-up to November, don’t just accept everything you see in the paper.  Do a little homework.  Do a few searches.  You’ll be a lot better informed voter, as a result.