By Linda Cicoira — Hallwood Councilman John Smith has taken a lot of ribbing around town since residents learned the town council voted earlier this month to pay for his recent tooth extraction.
“I’ve had people say, ‘Hey John, I got this medical condition …’” Smith said Wednesday, adding that they are “just kidding me.” The extraction, “It’s all done, and it’s doing great, was a tooth that broke off with my gum line … it was a front tooth.”
The majority of the town council agreed to pay for his dental work because Smith couldn’t afford it and members do not get paid for serving on the council.
“People seem to be concerned about spending $250,” said Smith. “But nobody ever put up a fuss about spending $14,000” in legal fees.
Smith came into the Eastern Shore Post’s office in Onley Tuesday to drop off copies he had saved of the town’s bills incurred from when he was taken to court 12 times. Some of the charges arose for the town’s defense when Smith filed complaints. He said the cases didn’t cost him anything because he filed on his own and represented himself.
The total of the legal fees was about $14,200. Attorney Lynwood Lewis, now a state senator representing the Eastern Shore, charged the town $8,071.50 while attorney Tommy Dix’s bill was $6,125. Smith said Dix never got paid a portion of the money. In retaliation against Lewis, Smith ran against him when Lewis was seeking re-election as state delegate.
In a written statement, Smith said, “Hallwood apparently took sides” with his neighbor “after a property line dispute. Over a four-year period, 2007 to 2011, Hallwood policeman arrested me 12 times. The feud went on until they ran low on money. Sometimes I sued the town attempting to get (back) my business license … I believe the amount billed is much higher but I do not have copies.”
The fines levied against Smith were for three charges of not having a business license and totaled $250 — the same amount it cost for his tooth extraction. The rest of the charges, including one for stalking, were dismissed. He said he was also charged for having a junkyard without a permit and “everything in the world imaginable.”
The stalking charge involved Smith making photos of the former town police chief when the chief was visiting Smith’s neighbor, who Smith said was the main complainant against him. Smith said the neighbor’s wife’s foot was in some of the pictures because she was sitting on a porch behind the chief. “I did not even know she was there,” Smith said. “It was thrown out. Wasn’t anything to it. I had to post a $10,000 bond for that.”
Court records show Smith was acquitted of the charge in 2009.
The neighbor, Donald Wayne Merritt, was harbormaster for the Town of Chincoteague, which obtained a no trespassing warrant against Smith. “They retracted the notice the next day,” Smith said. “The harbormaster just simply asked him (the town manager) to do it.”
“The feud began when I tore down the old building on my lot and brought in the motor home,” Smith said. That was in 2007. His home was a converted school bus that Smith had painted purple, the only paint color he said he had.
“One night I was walking down the road and somebody busted out ten windows,” he said of his bus. Eventually, “I got rid of it. I have a little camper here on the property” now, he added.
“At the time they were spending all that money on me, nobody ever said a word,” Smith said. “It was selective persecution.”
Since then, Merritt retired and left town, the police department was disbanded, and after trying for 20 years to become a town council member, Smith won an election with 12 votes.
Angel Taylor, the former town clerk, whose car burned with all the town records in 2017 just before an audit, was recently charged with 65 counts of embezzlement.
Smith said Taylor came to all of his court proceedings. She lived across the street from his house.
Court records show Taylor was the complainant in a case against Smith for failure to rid his property of debris in May 2009, which was not prosecuted, and a charge of failure to obtain a zoning permit in May 2010, which was dismissed.