WEST JEFFERSON-A political guest columnist and writer alleges that he was recently challenged to a fight in the parking lot of Hardee’s in Jefferson by County Commisioner Gary Roark.
Roark denies the claim, but said he did confront the columnist, Ken Lynn, over his portrayal of Roark in the columns he submitted to the Jefferson Post.
“It all began when I sat down to enjoy my biscuit with gravy,” Lynn wrote in his most recent submitted column. “Roark invited himself to interrupt my breakfast. In confronting me, Roark said when I wrote about him I should get my facts straight. I told him I had my facts straight. After the fourth or fifth time of repeating himself and me giving the same answer, I finally asked what he wanted to do about it. Unexpectedly, he said we could step out into the parking lot.”
Lynn said the incident happened on the morning of March 4.
Roark said his invitation to ‘step outside’ was not a threat, but an attempt to talk privately and away from eave’s droppers.
“I walked over to him and said, ‘Are you Ken Lynn,’ in a joking manner,” Roark said Thursday about the confrontation when reached by phone. ‘If I knew you were going to be here today, I would’ve wore my designer cut-off jeans.’”
Roark said the denim jab was a reference to one of Lynn’s earlier columns and insults to the county commissioner.
The conversation continued.
“I told him, ‘I wish you would get your facts straight before printing in the paper,’” Roark recalled telling Lynn. “He said, ‘What do you want to do about it.’”
Roark said he replied to Lynn, ‘Whatever you want to do about it.’
“I said, ‘If you want to go outside, we can go outside,’” said Roark again to Lynn. “I didn’t want to argue inside because people were sitting in Hardee’s listening.”
“He then said, ‘I don’t want to hurt you,’” recalled Roark. “I said, ‘I don’t think you can,’ to that effect,”
Roark added, ‘I just wanted to go outside to talk to him.”
The overall conversation was “about as far fetched as you can get,” said Roark.
“Can you imagine two grown men fighting about something in the paper?” he added.
When asked why he didn’t file a police report once threatened by Roark, Lynn said he didn’t “take him that seriously.”
“I don’t think a county commissioner should be acting that way,” said Lynn. “I was more concerned about that than filing a police report.”
Roark said the mild confrontation at Hardee’s dates back to earlier disagreements between he and Lynn.
“He (Lynn) wrote me a private letter and said I wasn’t qualified to be a county commissioner,” said Roark. “He said me, Judy (Poe) and Gerald Price (former county commissioners) were bad for the county. He said while I was the chairman that I didn’t do anything for the county.”
Roark then cited his leadership in securing a new ambulance service for the county, leading the charge of placing the quarter of a cent sales tax on the ballot and constructing a new roof for a veterans’ service building as proof that he is worthy of the job as county commissioner.
Ultimately, however, Roark believes Lynn takes issue with Roark over differing viewpoints on the placement of ‘In God We Trust’ on the county courthouse.
“He got upset over that,” said Roark. “He has been riding me for the last three or four years. He is a strong Democrat. He writes all kinds of crap in the paper. You can check my record at the courthouse.”
Roark then went on to say Lynn typically waits until an election year to attack him.
“He picked on Judy for a while,” said Roark. “I guess he is picking on me now. He never does this any other time.”
Lynn said he has been consistent in his criticism of Roark and other county commissioners.
“I’ve been writing about him and several other commissioners throughout the years,” said Lynn.
If commentary continues, Roark said he will take legal action.
“If he keeps it up, I’m going to get an attorney,” said Roark before getting off the phone.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.