Two weeks after the Richmond Tea Party delivered an invoice to Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones for costs incurred for previous rallies, the group received a letter from the city saying it is being audited.
In late October, the group demanded the city refund the $10,000 they paid in order to comply with city regulations regarding protests.
But Occupy Richmond protesters, however, have been allowed to camp out basically for free.
According to Colleen Owens, Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones not only allowed Occupy Richmond to break the law, but visited them in the city-owned park.
“Jones said that as a ‘child of civil rights’ and protests, he had allowed the group to remain in the park but understands his mayoral responsibility to uphold laws of the city,” the Richmond Times Dispatch reported.
“Apparently,” Colleen writes, “his mayoral duties included preferential treatment for a group he sympathizes with ideologically at the expense of the taxpayers.”
According to the blog Virginia Right, taxpayers have shelled out at least $7,000 for “services such as portable toilets, trash pickup, etc.” That figure does not include costs for police, helicopters or incarcerations.
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.
She also notes that the mayor – theoretically a man who is supposed to work for all the citizens of Richmond – refused to meet with or listen to the Tea Party, but had plenty of time to meet with his ideological fellows in the Communist Party-backed Occupy movement behind closed doors:
On November 14th representatives of our Tea Party attended the City Council meeting to speak to the Mayor and Council during the citizen forum. Mayor Jones, apparently too busy to listen to his constituents, got up and left before we spoke. He had no problem inviting members of the Occupy group to his office for a closed door meeting days later, at the same time refusing to meet with us.
In response to the demand for a refund, the city has decided to target the Tea Party with a “comprehensive audit.”
According to the city, the Tea Party is delinquent in filing of Admissions, Lodging, and Meals Taxes with the city, despite never having charged for any of those things.
“We have never charged admission, or had lodging or meals associated with our rallies. Every month the forms are appropriately filled with zeros,” Owens said.
“Ms. Carr goes on to say that if we don’t respond within 15 days, the City will make a statutory assessment- meaning they’ll pick an amount to charge us,” she added.
Clearly, the City of Richmond has targeted the Tea Party because they do not agree with the group’s politics, while giving Occupy Richmond a free pass to do whatever it wants on the taxpayer’s dime.
Owens put it this way:
So the City and Mayor apparently feels that the Richmond Tea Party has not paid its fair share for use of Kanawha Plaza. We challenged the Mayor’s unequal treatment between groups and he responds with even more unequal treatment.
Owens says the story has fired up other Tea Party groups who have followed the law only to see Occupy protesters given a free ride. She adds that this is a clear case of Mayor Jones using taxpayer money for his own personal agenda.
“We stand for virtue and accountability in government and that is why we have taken a stand,” Owens wrote.
The group plans to submit a Virginia Freedom of Information Act request for all city correspondence pertaining to the Richmond Tea Party and its decision to audit them. Owens adds that a Richmond attorney who is affiliated with the Tea Party is looking into the situation.
Adding that the group has been contacted by the ACLU, Owens says the group “will not be intimidated and … will not back down.”
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