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Originally published: 2013-01-21 16:45:25
Last modified: 2013-01-22 14:38:41

Superintendent criticized after dispute

Superintendent David Kafitz has drawn rebuke from a local business owner after a dispute at a Boone pizza restaurant.

In a letter from general manager Chase Luddeke of Mellow Mushroom, Luddeke describes a confrontation he says occurred in the King Street restaurant over the use of a discount card by the superintendent.

“The reason I am writing this letter is that I wanted to relay my disappointment with our first and only interaction,” the letter reads. “After much deliberation, I have decided to bring this to your attention, as well as the attention of your colleagues, and those whom you will be serving as the newly appointed superintendent of the Watauga County School System.”

The letter further accuses Kafitz of “making a scene” and threatening to exclude Mellow Mushroom from participating in the Pioneer Band Card program in the future after a disagreement about how the discount was to be applied. Luddeke said the discrepancy amounted to $7.

"You flouted your position with pomp, arrogance and without considering the potential consequences of your posturing," the letter reads.

Luddeke said he sent the letter to Kafitz and about 25 to 30 others associated with the school system late last week.

Kafitz said just before 4:30 p.m. Monday that he was on his way to meet with the restaurant owners to discuss the matter.

“Honestly, this is the kind of thing I prefer to settle person-to-person, since it happened person-to-person,” he said. “I understand my role as a public official, and sometimes I live in a bit more of a fish bowl than other people.”

Kafitz said after the meeting with Chase and Chuck Luddeke that he felt all the parties had put the situation behind them. Board of Education Vice Chairwoman Delora Hodges also attended the meeting at Kafitz's request, he said.

"I apologized for how I handled the situation, and we all left on good terms and very positive footing," Kafitz said. "There's no harm, no foul in our relationship, between the school system and them or me and them."

Luddeke agreed, saying he was pleased to accept the apology and that Mellow Mushroom would continue to support the schools through donations.

Kafitz would not provide an account of the dispute, which he said occurred over the holiday break. He said that he holds his personal integrity dear and said that some people "probably feel like I have let them down."

As for any future repercussions, Kafitz said the matter was finished.

"I have spoken with a majority of the board members about this and just told them I would handle it and make sure that there was a positive outcome," he said. "I have followed through on that."

Board members Brenda Reese and Ron Henries both said Monday that they were aware of the situation but didn't know enough about it to make a comment. Both said the board members had not discussed the matter together. Chairman Lee Warren and board member Barbara Kinsey could not be reached by press time Tuesday.

Hodges described the meeting with the Luddekes as a “good conversation” and said that the board will discuss the matter, possibly at its work session Thursday evening.

She said she couldn’t comment on whether the incident would affect Kafitz’s job and said the board would need to discuss how to move forward.

“I think we all make mistakes and do things we wish we hadn’t done,” Hodges said.