Part 2: A look at civil court cases involving other Burlington candidates
[Editor’s Note: This is the second of three stories in this week’s edition looking at the legal issues that various candidates for Burlington mayor and city council have faced.
[The Alamance News undertook the review as a part of its biennial election coverage. Burlington candidates have the earliest date with voters, a primary on October 5 which will allow voters to whittle the five candidates for mayor to the top two who will face off on November 2; similarly voters will choose among six city council candidates, winnowing that list to the top four from whom voters will choose the final two on November 2.
Note: the newspaper did not attempt to contact any of the 11 candidates individually, relying instead entirely on the public record information contained within each story.]
The Alamance News has reviewed countless Alamance County court documents to determine whether any of the five candidates for mayor of Burlington or the six candidates for Burlington city council have been involved in any legal disputes that wound through the local courts system (see related story, this edition).
With five challengers seeking to oust incumbent mayor Ian Baltutis, the city will hold a primary on October 5 to narrow the field to two finalists whose names will appear on the ballot for the general election on November 2. Likewise, six candidates will vie for two open seats on the city council in the October 5 primary, which was automatically triggered because the number of candidates was more than double the number of available seats. Incumbent councilman Jim Butler is running for mayor; incumbent Harold Owen is seeking reelection to a second term on the city council this fall.
Estranged wife of incumbent mayor alludes to legal dispute on social media
Incumbent mayor Ian Thomas Baltutis, of 702 West Davis Street, who is seeking reelection to a fourth two-year term in this fall’s municipal election, appears to be entangled in a legal dispute with his estranged wife, Kristina Simmons Baltutis, based on a message she recently posted on social media.
The mayor’s wife posted a message stating “So much for amicable separation,” after she received a notice that Baltutis had filed a lien against Elon Animal Hospital at 110 South Williamson Avenue in Elon, where Kristina Baltutis is currently the veterinarian/owner, according to the clinic’s website. The lien was filed through a statewide listing website, according to the message that Kristina Baltutis posted on her personal Facebook page.
However, while Kristina Baltutis is listed as owner of Elon Animal Hospital, the property itself is owned by Jeff Wilkins of Elon, according to the lien notice and the county’s tax department.
An insurance company, Fidelity National Title Company, is listed as a “designated lien agent,” meaning that the insurer is responsible for tracking and receiving potential lien claims – and leaving it unclear whether the business, property owner, or the insurer would be responsible for repaying the alleged outstanding debt.
Ian Baltutis apparently filed the lien earlier this year to recover alleged outstanding debt for materials and/or labor that were initially furnished to the property on December 31 of last year, the online notice states. Ian Baltutis has yet to file a lien against the property in Alamance County’s civil court division.
In addition to his duties presiding over Burlington city council meetings, Baltutis is a general contractor specializing in residential and commercial construction. Both Ian Baltutis and Kristina Baltutis are listed as co-owners of Blue & Green Holding Company, LLC, which was created on March 24 of this year and has its registered office at 2779 South Church Street, Suite 101, in Burlington, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
Neither Ian Baltutis nor his wife appears to have filed a separation agreement, according to Alamance County court records.
The Alamance News also reviewed Alamance county court documents to ascertain whether any of the four challengers that Baltutis will face in the October primary election have been entangled in legal disputes, as well. Two of the four challengers for mayor of Burlington (incumbent city councilman Jim Butler and Caleb Massey) do not appear to have been involved in any legal disputes, based on Alamance County civil court records. Two other challengers (Walter Boyd, Jr. and Donna Vanhook) have had financial disputes that led to court action.
Walter Yates Boyd, Jr., of 407 Meadowood Drive, who is a former attorney, local historian, and an amateur actor, apparently had his share of financial challenges several years following the worldwide economic downturn in 2008.
Bank of America initiated foreclosure proceedings against his home on Meadowood Drive in 2012, eight years after he purchased it, in March 2004. Boyd used the deed to the property at the time to secure a $272,500 loan that carried a 15-year term, according to court documents.
Boyd subsequently worked out a loan modification with Bank of America, which gave him a new 40-year term to repay $166,014 in principal, plus 4.5 percent interest. The lender voluntarily dismissed the foreclosure proceeding in October 2012, based on the court file.
However, Bank of America ultimately foreclosed on another property that Boyd owned at 705 Gurney Street in Burlington, after he defaulted on a $156,000 loan that he had obtained in April 2003 and had carried a 15-year term. The property was sold for $132,300 at a foreclosure sale in November 2013 to LaVerne Martin and David Tony Squires, then of 402 South Fourth Street in Mebane, according to court documents.
In February 2014, Bank of America again initiated foreclosure proceedings against Boyd’s property on Meadowood Drive but apparently withdrew that proceeding, based on information on file in the Alamance County civil courts division. The debt appears to have been sold to other loan servicing companies three times: in May 2015, October 2016, and January 2017, according to documents on file in the civil division and with the county’s Register of Deeds’ office.
Boyd was also listed as a plaintiff in an eviction proceeding and suit filed in small claims court against a tenant who had fallen behind on monthly rent payments for a single-family home at 213 West Summerbell Avenue in Elon. The case was heard in Alamance County small claims court in March 2018, and Boyd was awarded a judgment for $1,091.25, plus $394.41 in court costs and interest, against the tenant, who is listed in the court file as Katherine B. Potts.
Longtime incumbent councilman James (“Jim”) Bryan Butler, of 520 Meadowood Drive, appears to have had no legal disputes that wound up in the local system court system, according to documents on file in Alamance County’s civil courts division.
First-time candidate for Burlington city council Caleb Jordan Massey, of 1017 Tarleton Avenue, also appears to have had no legal disputes in the county’s court system.
Political newcomer Donna M. Vanhook, of 317 Caswell Street, is also challenging Baltutis for the mayor’s post in the October primary. The Graham police department apparently filed a “complaint for money owed” in small claims court against Vanhook in September 2000, according to court documents, which give no other details about the alleged debt.
Vanhook was also the target, along with several other defendants, of a lien that was filed in Alamance County civil court in August 2000. Along with Vanhook, the lien was filed against the following individuals: Mary J. Godfrey; Felicia M. Ekwueme and husband Tago E. Ekwueme; Doris J. Alston; and “unknown heirs of William Herbert Alston and Wilma Alston Ross.” The plaintiffs – Helen Godfrey Alston; Doris O. Alston; Mary Alston Dove; and William Herbert Alston – were awarded a judgment for $655.35 on August 25, 2000 for a lien against what is described as “real property is lot 5,” according to information recorded in the abstract of judgments from that time, which gives no street address for the property, nor any details about the dispute.
City council candidates
Alamance County civil court records give no indication that three of the six candidates for Burlington city council have ever had any legal disputes that eventually made their way through Alamance County’s civil courts system. These three candidates include: Charles Allen Beasley, 1134 Cardross Street; former Alamance County commissioner Robert Elbert Byrd, 2826 Charlotte Lane; and Wendy Pope Jordan, of 1530 Wickham Street, who is a retired Burlington police officer and political newcomer.
Harold Thomas Owen, 223 Engleman Avenue, does not appear to have been involved in any personal legal disputes, though he was named as a defendant, in his capacity as then-city manager, in two lawsuits that were filed against the city of Burlington and its police department in 2015 and 2016. Owen retired as city manager in 2016 and was elected to a four-year term on the city council in the fall of 2017.
Owen was named as a defendant, along with then-Burlington police chief Jeffrey Smythe and other city officials, in lawsuits that two women filed, seeking monetary damages for what they had contended were wrongful arrests.
Kathy Wells York, then of 2051 Edgewood Avenue in Burlington, was convicted of resisting a public officer in Alamance County superior court in May 2013 but was acquitted on a second charge of larceny that had been filed after she mistakenly picked up a makeup case that belonged to another woman inside the bathroom at the Belk’s store at Alamance Crossing shopping center in Burlington in 2012.
The state Court of Appeals overturned York’s conviction of resisting a public officer, concluding that there had been no probable cause to arrest her since she had returned the makeup case to the store after realizing her mistake, according to that court file.
York subsequently sued the city and Burlington police department for more than $15,000 in damages under multiple alleged claims for relief. A federal district court judge later dismissed the claims against the city but remanded other aspects of the dispute back to Alamance County.
Owen was also named in his capacity as city manager in a federal lawsuit that was filed against the city, Smythe, and the Burlington police department over an alleged wrongful arrest. Anna Marie Martin had been charged in May 2015 with stealing CDs from the Walmart on Graham-Hopedale Road and with hitting another vehicle in the store’s parking lot as she fled. While the criminal charges were dismissed shortly afterward, Martin sued the city for alleged damages under multiple claims, including false arrest and defamation.
The same federal district court judge, Thomas D. Schroeder, dismissed Martin’s federal claims and remanded the dispute back to Alamance County in February 2017. The city offered Martin a $25,001 settlement the same month, which she accepted, according to court documents.
Longtime former Burlington mayor Ronnie Keith Wall, who opted not to seek re-election in 2015, has filed for one of two city council seats that will be available this fall. Wall, who lives at 613 Meadowood Drive in Burlington, has been involved in two civil court cases in Alamance County. His former wife, Leslie Boone Wall, filed for divorce in February 1990, which was granted. Wall, employed as the head of school for The Burlington School since 2014, later married his current wife, Susan Wall.
Wall had also filed a complaint for money owed against a defendant listed as Jimmy Salmons in August 2000, according to Alamance County court files, which give no other details about the dispute. That case was later voluntarily dismissed.
In his capacity as then-mayor of Burlington, Wall was named as one of five defendants in a lawsuit filed against the city in 2013. In addition to Wall, the suit also named as defendants then-city manager Harold Owen, former planning director Bob Harkrader, city attorney Charles Bateman, and Clifton Graves, a code enforcement officer for the city of Burlington.
The case was ultimately dismissed, and the plaintiff, Larry Hawkins, was required to pay the city’s legal fees to defend the case.