David Bowden Case: And Now, the Real Story

Story and photo by Hal Goodtree.

Cary, NC – Do you read the local newspaper with a soupçon of skepticism? You should.

Once again this morning, the News & Observer re-ran their version of the Bowden story. I saw it on page 3 of the Triangle edition.

David Bowden is the guy who painted the front of his house with the message “Screwed by Town of Cary” in big red letters. Mr. Bowden has subsequently replaced his original message with a permanent sign expressing a similar sentiment.

Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht wrote to us to point out several omissions and distortions in the story.

“Unfortunately, the article written was misleading, incomplete, and in my opinion was generating news rather than reporting it,” – Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht

Here are the facts.

Appeal Process

A judicial appeal is a process with many steps. The most recent ruling by Judge Louise Flanagan is not the end of the process. In fact, her judgement was an expected outcome.

“To appeal the town had to ask Judge Flanagan to reconsider which we did a few weeks ago. Of course she said no but that is part of the process. So basically the N&O is rehashing old news and reporting that we are continuing a process (without printing it). To leave that point out makes it more sensational and helps sell papers.” – Mayor Weinbrecht

Cost to Cary

A glaring in hole in the article is the failure to mention that Cary has reached its deductible on legal costs for the Bowden matter. That means we’ve already paid for the appeal process and continuing will cost Cary taxpayers little or nothing.

“The cost of this appeal will be significantly less and may not cost us much more at all. The reason, the leading firm is appointed by the insurance company and we have reached our deductible. So most, if not all, of future costs will be shouldered by the insurance company. Once again, to leave this significant point out helps sell papers.” – Mayor Weinbrecht

Free Speech?

The N&O continues to portray this as a “free speech” story. On their website, the story is tagged with the keyword phrase “free speech.” Mr. Bowden would certainly like people to see it that way.

However, the Town of Cary maintains that what is at issue is the ability of a community to regulate its standards of appearance. As Mayor Weinbrecht points out, Mr. Bowden has a slew of options to express his displeasure with the Town.

“We believe this ruling is not about the 1st amendment. As a matter of fact Mr. Bowden has always been allowed to put his message on a sign in his yard. If he would have done this then none of this would ever have happened. Again, the paper fails to mention that he can put a sign in his yard.” – Mayor Weinbrecht

Truly, Mr. Bowden’s ploy seems like an effort to pry money from the Town of Cary by being as obnoxious as possible while hiding under the cover of free speech.

More Regulation or None

Cary Town Council decided to pursue this matter with the intent to protect the value of our community from future bad actors.

According to Mayor Weinbrecht, the consequences of knuckling under to Mr. Bowden’s bullying tactics could have profound implications:

“If we don’t appeal one of two things will happen: 1) we will not be able to regulate any kind of sign anywhere. This means your neighbor could put up a 50 foot sign will flashing lights and there would be nothing we could do about it. OR 2) we would have to regulate Christmas decorations which I personally think is absurd. Of course the paper has never printed the consequences of doing nothing.” – Mayor Weinbrecht

Just the Facts, Please

It’s one thing to always harp on bad news. The N&O earned its nickname The Nuisance & Disturber long ago.

But it’s something else to shape stories so aggressively they mislead, all in the hope of ginning up a little controversy and a few more web hits.

That serves neither journalism nor the community.

First time commenter? Please read our Comments Policy. Comments are at the discretion of the Publisher.


13 replies
  1. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Nice counterbalance. Thank you. He’s trying to hold the township hostage and wants my tax dollars to fund his retirement. No thank you.

  2. Harold Weinbrecht
    Harold Weinbrecht says:

    In full disclosure let me give you the latest:

    The editor of the N&O called me this morning (apparently he reads the Cary Citizen). He said the town said I was wrong about meeting the deductible. He got his information from the public information office that says we have only spent 51K of our 75K deductible. My conversations we with the legal department. In my conversation with them they said bills were still coming in and expected from the lead firm and they felt the deductible had been met. The public information office was probably basing their information on what has actually been reported to date. Unfortunately, this is a town holiday so I won’t be able to resolve the communication difference until Monday.

    It is my goal that everyone know everything I can tell them about this issue especially since it is in the forefront of the media. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.

    Thanks!

  3. Lindsey Chester
    Lindsey Chester says:

    His new sign adheres even less to the sign ordinance! More than the alotted amount of information, and the size covers the entire front length of his house. Something any business in town is not allowed to do.

  4. Lloyd
    Lloyd says:

    I understand the points of the mayor but I still believe that both parties should sit down and resolve the issues created by the town when they caused the problems. Now that both sides have moved so far into their respective corners I doubt either side will come out looking good or have an acceptable outcome. I think it would have been cheaper for the town to resolve the homeowners issue rather than spend all the money that they have on lawyers and court costs..But that is just my opinion…

  5. Leslie Huffman
    Leslie Huffman says:

    For years I passed this house and noticed the disrepair of the home and mildew stains on the house, before the TOC widened Maynard Road. I think it is a case of someone looking for someone else to pick up the cost of a problem that already existed.

  6. Harold Weinbrecht
    Harold Weinbrecht says:

    Lloyd,

    Most, if not all, of Mr. Bowden’s water damage was prior to the road construction. Staff, the assistant town manager, and council member Frantz all visited and talked with Mr. Bowden before this law suit. We even offerred to help to fix the water problems. He refused and told us to stay off his property. It was clear from the start that Mr. Bowden had other intentions than getting repairs.

    • Mark
      Mark says:

      Regardless of prior damage, there is no question this project put Mr. Bowden’s house in a ditch. I live right down the road and this house went from being fairly level with the road to a driveway with at least 30 degrees. The way his driveway sits now, it is next to impossible for water NOT to run into his house. The town could have avoided this fight by giving him fair market value for his house and been done with it. No, they say it would set a precedent for anyone to ask for the same thing. Bull, this case is unique and each case would have to stand on its own merits. They could have bought the house, razed it and divided the lot bewteen the two bordering neighbors. Mr. Franz decided to take a personal vendetta against Mr. Bowden on his blog, I guess in response to Mr. Bowden’s comments abotu Mr. Franz’s business success through his wife. However, big difference. Mr. Franz is an elected official and had no business going after Mr. Bowden in this way. Besides, his comments about Mr. Bowden buying a sports car or traveling were irrelevant to the case. If Mr. Bowden had gone to Las Vegas and blown $100,000, it has nothing to do with the case. Mr. Bowden made his own assumptions on information that was irrelevant. I hope the family continues this case all the way to the US Supreme Court.

  7. Ian Henshaw
    Ian Henshaw says:

    It is interesting that all of the reporting leaves off the gramatically incorrect comma that ended the first paint job…

  8. Gale Adcock
    Gale Adcock says:

    Re: Lloyd’s post, meeting to resolve our differences was one of the Town’s first approaches. We offered mediation; Mr. Bowden refused.

    Thanks for shedding some much-needed light on this situation, Hal.

  9. Joe
    Joe says:

    Pay the guy and move on. This whole appeal situation is making the town of Cary look like a bunch of crybabies. As far as your neighbor putting up a 50 ft tall sign with flashing lights….it’s not going to happen. And not being an issue of 1st admentment rights…isn’t that what the judge based her decision on in the first place?

Comments are closed.