By Linda Cicoira — It took decades, but John Smith, of Hallwood, finally appears to have turned the tables. Last week, he was victorious in getting the town council to give him $250 for dental work even though the move immediately brought another resident’s plea for assistance.
And Smith came to the rescue with the copy of an old ordinance and says he has copies of several more that he has saved over the years and will provide to the zoning administrator or clerk.
All the town records were burned in a fire in the former town clerk’s car in October 2017. She was recently charged with 65 counts of embezzlement.
Smith has been known as that guy who sued town officials, painted a school bus purple and converted it into his home in the center of town, was accused of stalking because he put up surveillance cameras in his yard, was not allowed to go on property owned by Chincoteague because the neighbor worked there, wrote a book about the injustices, and registered his election campaign against former town attorney, State Sen. Lynwood Lewis.
Smith ran for town council, in Hallwood, 10 times and was finally elected last year with a total of 12 votes.
Now he officially has the privilege of sitting at the council table without being hassled. On Jan. 9, the town wrote the 70-year-old a check drawn from Hallwood coffers so Smith could get a tooth extracted “up in Baltimore where my wife lives.” He said he couldn’t afford the dental work. Smith doesn’t get a stipend for serving the community. The majority of members wanted to help him.
The council approved the move at last week’s session, where they also voted to prohibit commoners, those who aren’t holding public office, from sitting with them at their table, unless all the other folding chairs are filled. Smith was the only member opposed to the move.
During a two-decade stretch, Smith ran for office every other year when town elections were held “even while they were spending the town’s money trying to run me out of town,” he said of the council just after winning the election.
He doesn’t know what irritated people about him. But he said a local woman told him it was because “you paint everything purple.”
A different woman, who was not identified, sat at the council table during the recent session and didn’t move even after the vote that prohibited her from sitting there. She asked the town to help her cut the curb at her house for a driveway as it was unsafe for her to park on the street. She said a license plate was stolen from her vehicle when it was left there.
The council members made no move to help her.
“When a council member asks,” you pay, she said. “But if you are a citizen who asks, you won’t pay.”
“My thoughts are, it’s the landowner’s responsibility,” Poulson said.
“We asked the whole town,” said Councilman Rich Selinsky. “When they voted for him (Smith), they said, ‘Yes.’ They must have some faith in him.”
“She’s got a good point,” said Young. “Giving him the money has opened a can of worms. I didn’t vote for Johnny and his teeth.”
“It was opened a long time ago when it was given to someone else,” Smith answered. He later said it wasn’t the town’s action to help him get his tooth extracted that set the precedence. It was a vote years ago to help Councilwoman Sicky Hicks with her medical bill.
“No one at this town council gets paid a dime,” said Poulson. “So, I didn’t think that was out of the way.”
“She’s not going to be the only one,” Young said of the woman who wanted a driveway.
The council also voted to continue working on a plan to bring back a police department. The recent purchase of a squad car was referenced.
In 2009, the Hallwood police chief’s taser was used by a local father to stun his 15-year-old son. A video of the incident circulated on social media. At that time, all involved said it was a joke and that the boy was never really hit.
“Once we see the police department isn’t paying for itself then we’ll do away with it,”
Mayor Jackie Poulson told the council.
“You can’t spend something you don’t have,” Hicks answered. “That’s because the cop didn’t do his job and get any tickets,” she added.
“Only thing the cop did was arrest John Smith,” Smith said of himself.
“That’s in the past,” Councilman Stanley Young told Smith. “We’ve asked you to forget about it.”
Included in a draft town budget was $10,000 for police. Hicks abstained from voting about starting a new department. She was adamant in her opposition to it. Councilwoman Barbara Ferell was absent. The rest of the panel voted in favor of having the protection.
The plan was for compensation to be fixed by the council that would not be based on commission.