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Fireworks erupt in Lapsley-Young race

Bill Lapsley, right, and Larry Young clashed during a candidate forum on Thursday, April 9. Bill Lapsley, right, and Larry Young clashed during a candidate forum on Thursday, April 9.

Henderson County Commissioner Larry Young and challenger Bill Lapsley differed sharply in their portrayals of Wingate University's decision to create a pharmacy school here in the most heated conflict of the night Wednesday during a candidate forum.


Young took credit for bringing Wingate University to Hendersonville, saying that he worked on Wingate's behalf for a Pardee Hospital agreement to accept Wingate students for clinical experience.
Lapsley said that Young threatened to remove Pardee Hospital Board members and sell the county-owned facility if they didn't bend to his will.
"He told them 'I'm going to fire all of you, I'm going to kill the joint venture project on the county line and worst of all I'm going to see that Pardee Hospital gets sold,' and that's a fact," Lapsley said. "It was a meeting in October when all this was discussed."
"That's a lie," Young fired back.
The question about Wingate and how it came to reach an agreement with Pardee four years ago triggered the biggest fireworks during a forum involving all seven candidates running for three seats on Board of Commissioners.
Young, who is seeking his fourth term on the board, said he intervened to help Wingate and as a result stopped the Union County university from choosing another city for its post-graduate degree programs. The line of questioning brought back into public view the controversy over Pardee's decision to jointly build a new health clinic with Mission Health of Asheville and the talk — later put in the form of a motion by then-Commissioner Bill O'Connor — that the county should sell the hospital.
"I was the reason" Wingate located in Hendersonville to start with, Young said. "When Wingate made the offer to come to Henderson County they had to have the cooperation of three hospitals — Pardee, Park Ridge and the V.A. The V.A. supported them and they got Park Ridge.
"The Pardee Hospital Board voted not to give them that level of cooperation. We didn't know about it until the economic development director came before the Henderson County Board of Commissioners and stated that Wingate was headed to Greensboro. I said, 'What are you talking about?' We didn't know anything about it because the chairman of the Board of Commissioners (Bill Moyer) was on the hospital board and he did not come back and tell us that this had even put on the table.
"So I got with the hospital board and got them to change their vote and get that level cooperation. I sent a letter to Dr. Jerry McGee, president of Wingate, and saved it from going to Greensboro. He gave me the recognition of that at the ribbon cutting. That's what happened. Since then it's been getting bigger and better all the time and it's really going to be the best thing to happen to Henderson County."
Lapsley disputed Young's version of the events surrounding Pardee and Wingate.
"I think a little big of background should be spent" on the topic, he said after Young's comments. "I was the chair of the Pardee Hospital Board at the time this came up. In March of 2010 the Pardee Board was approached by UNC School of Medicine Pharmacy School to joint venture with them in hosting UNC pharmacy students at Pardee Hospital. Two months later, Pardee got a letter from Wingate indicating they wanted to have pharmacy students at Pardee. Their letter said they wanted Pardee to be the only provider for pharmacy students. They wanted Pardee to boot out the UNC students.
"The Pardee Board said, 'No, we've made a commitment to UNC, we're going to keep it. The Pardee Board discussed it again several months later and Mr. Young came to several members of Pardee Board and threatened our board members and said 'I'm going to fire all of you, I'm going to kill the joint venture project on the county line and worst of all I'm going to see that Pardee Hospital gets sold,' and that's a fact. It was a meeting in October when all this was discussed."
"That's a lie," Young said.
"All you have to do is call Dr. Jerry McGee. The reason they didn't want to cooperate with Wingate — guess why? Because they were going to cooperate with UNC over at UNC Asheville. Well, what does that do for Henderson County?"
In interviews after the forum, both candidates stuck by their recollection of the events.
"That's a lie," Young said when asked whether he had threatened to kill the joint venture. "That's something Bill Moyer said.
"I said we weren't going to go into a joint venture on a 40-5 deal — Mission put up $40 million and we put up $5 million and then our name not being on the deed and not be owner of the building or the business or nothing. I said we'd go into it 50-50. Mission didn't want to do it. That's the only way I'd sign on to it. It worked out. And now we're in as much control of that building. We've got the same amount of doctors up there that they do."
Asked whether he had threatened Pardee board members, he said no.
"Well, I went to them and told them, 'Do you know who appoints you to this board?' They said 'yeah, county commissioners,' and I said 'Then I think it might be in your best interest to go back and revisit that memorandum of understanding for this thing at the university.'"
Lapsley said he knows Young made the threats because he was one of the board members to receive one.
"I know what he told me," Lapsley said. "And he told other members of the board the same thing. And that's why there was such a blowup over the sale of the hospital.
"Moyer was aware of this, I was aware of this and all the other board members. He told us, 'You either do this,' his words were — he didn't have opposition (in the 2010 election) either in the primary or the general election. During the summer months when all of this happened he was skating into office again in December. He was feeling his oats. He became very close friends with Dr. McGee.
"The Pardee Board took this action because they (Wingate) wanted to bump UNC. That was the issue." He and other Pardee leaders said, "By the way you're already sending students here. What's the big deal?"
"So then in the ensuring two months Larry made it a major issue and he came to the board members individually — not the board as a whole — because at the same time this was going on we were discussing the Mission-Pardee joint venture, with the commissioners. They indicated they wanted to be a part of the decision-making process. So we let them in on it, briefed them on it, and it was during those briefings that Larry brought up (that) Wingate is important to me, we did to do this. We said, 'Larry, you get them to back off on this sole provider business (banishing UNC pharmacy students) and we'll make it happen.' His response was 'Well, I don't care about that. This is going to happen. And if it doesn't, when I become chair in December, I'm going to get all of you fired, I'm going to kill the joint venture — I'll have three votes — and I'm going to sell the hospital.'"
The Pardee-Wingate dispute was among several issues that created sharp differences. Challenger Andrew Riddle criticized the agreement the board made with the city of Asheville when Michael Edney was chair.
The candidates meet again at 7 tonight during a forum at the Opportunity House sponsored by the Republican Party.