A tea party organization that demanded a refund of event fees it paid the city of Richmond, Va., after officials granted “Occupy” protesters the same services at no cost now is the target of an audit by the city.
Colleen Owens, spokeswoman for the Richmond Tea Party, today told WND that it’s just a matter of fairness.
The group has paid in excess of $8,500 to the city over the last year or two for special event permit fees, the cost of policemen for security, portable restrooms and the like for its tax protest day events.
When the “Occupy Richmond” protesters were given essentially the same services by the city without cost, the Richmond Tea Party submitted an invoice to the mayor’s office for reimbursement of the fees paid.
“Red Army: The Radical Network that must be defeated to save America” exposes the extremists behind Occupy Wall Street along with the radical socialist network that seized political power in Washington over decades, shaped Obama’s presidential agenda and threatens the very future of the U.S.
Owens confirmed to WND today that the organization has not received a response to its request but instead received notification of a “comprehensive audit.”
She said the suspicion that the city is responding with antagonism is supported by the fact that the letter from Cynthia Carr, a field auditor for the city, alleges that the Richmond Tea Party is “delinquent in the filing and/or payment of Admissions, Lodging and/or Meals Taxes that you are required to collect on behalf of the city.”
“As such,” the letter says, “your business has been selected for a comprehensive tax audit. In addition to the taxes previously mentioned, this audit may include the review of your business, professional and occupational licenses (business license), Virginia sales tax, and business personal property tax liabilities.”
Carr threatens in the letter that “failure to respond and/or provide the information requested may result in the city making a statutory assessment based on the best available information for your business.”
WND telephone calls to the telephone number Carr listed on the letter, as well as through the city’s switchboard, all resulted in the reporter being transferred to a dead telephone line where there was neither a ring nor the possibility of leaving a message.
Photo: Colleen Owens
Owens explained that the tea party organization charged no admissions and had no lodging or meals sales, so there was no tax due – information that already has been reported to the city.
She also pointed out that as a purchaser of a special events permit from the city, the Richmond Tea Party is exempted from those other requirements.
“We don’t owe ANYTHING according to the tax rules, and we aren’t even required to complete the forms that the city says are ‘required.’ Because we had a special events permit, by the city’s own written rules *we are not required to do any of this*. We even filed forms that were not required, trying to accommodate the city in a good faith effort, and they still harass us!” she wrote.
She quoted Section 18-523 of the city ordinances, which states an exemption for: “Special events or festivals for which a permit has been issued by the chief of police or the director of parks and recreation and community facilities.”
In purchasing a business license on top of the special events permit, she noted, the city was charging the Richmond Tea Party twice for services.
She said the invoice to the city was not about the money, but about the equal treatment of different organizations. She noted that the city’s cost to provide the “Occupy” protesters with services already has been estimated at thousands of dollars.
“If the mayor would be willing to pay back taxpayers [for those costs], then we would be willing to drop our request,” she said.
She said, however, in a commentary at Big Government, that it’s “an obvious attempt to intimidate and harass us for standing up against the unfair treatment and discrimination against our Tea Party.”
“The mayor not only allowed the Occupiers to break the law, but he visited them in the city-owned park,” she said. “Apparently his mayoral duties included preferential treatment for a group he sympathizes with ideologically at the expense of the taxpayers.”
She continued, “The blog Virginia Right reported that the city provided services such as portable toilets, trash pickup, etc. The incomplete invoices obtained from the city totaled $7,000. This was only a portion of the actual costs to taxpayers because the costs of police, helicopter and incarcerations were not included. Also not accounted for was the 24-hour police protection of the mayor’s home after the Occupiers moved their camp next door to the mayor’s house. The Richmond Tea Party, conversely, paid for all services for our rallies, including the police, portable toilets, park fees and permits, amounting to approximately $8,500.”
The Virginia Right blog also posted images of invoices for the “Occupy” expenses.
One city councilman told the local media that it looks like the city might have to write a check to the tea partiers, but even if that is done, the city might not escape the dilemma.
“The Richmond Tea Party stands for constitutional adherence, and clearly this has been unequal treatment under the law. We stand for fiscal restraint, and this is a case where a mayor used taxpayer money for his personal agenda. We stand for virtue and accountability in government and that is why we have taken a stand. We will be submitting a Virginia Freedom of Information Act request for all city correspondence pertaining to our Tea Party and its decision to audit us. We will not be intimidated and we will not back down. A Richmond attorney and fellow Tea Partier is currently reviewing our situation. Also, the ACLU has also contacted us inquiring about this matter,” Owens wrote.
Concerned individuals may contact the City of Richmond mayor’s office by calling (804) 646-7970 or by fax at (804) 646-7987.