Written by Colleen Owens
Two weeks after the Richmond Tea Party delivered an invoice to Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones for costs incurred for previous rallies; we received a letter from the City of Richmond formally stating that the city is auditing our Tea Party. Coincidence? This audit is an obvious attempt to intimidate and harass us for standing up against the unfair treatment and discrimination against our Tea Party.
First some back story: As reported on the front page of the Richmond Times Dispatch, the Richmond Tea Party delivered an invoice for charges incurred in our previous three Tax Day rallies at Kanawha Plaza because Mayor Jones chose to allow Occupy Richmond protesters to convene in the same park for two weeks.
Tax Day Rally Photo: Richmond Tea Party Kanawha Plaza
The Mayor not only allowed the Occupiers to break the law, but he 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,” reported the Richmond Times Dispatch.
Apparently his mayoral duties included preferential treatment for a group he sympathizes with ideologically at the expense of the taxpayers.
Occupy Richmond Photo Kanawha Plaza
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.
Our actions apparently struck a nerve. Our invoice to the Mayor was covered by hundreds of news outlets, including the AP, Richmond Times Dispatch, Baltimore Sun, and the Washington Post. On October 31, I appeared on Fox Business, Neil Cavuto’s show and was interviewed about our actions. Reportedly, at least two Richmond City Council members agreed with our plight. “I guess we'll be writing a check to the tea party people," said Councilman Bruce W. Tyler. "You can't treat one group different from the other. It's unfair." as quoted in the Richmond Times Dispatch. Occupy Richmond Photo·Kanawha Plaza
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.
His administration, however, found the time to send us an audit letter (provided in full below). No need for the city to audit the Occupiers, because, as the Mayor knows, all of their costs were provided by the taxpayers of Richmond.(Gateway Pundit).... City Audit Letter Notification
In the audit letter signed by Cynthia Carr, Field Auditor for the City of Richmond, it states that our Tea Party is delinquent in filing of Admissions, Lodging, and Meals Taxes with the city and as such our group has been targeted for a comprehensive audit. Well aren’t we special? In fact, as part of the Business License we have with the City, a form is filled out by our treasurer every month (as required). We have never charged admission, or had lodging or meals associated with our rallies. Every month the forms are appropriately filled with zeros. 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.
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.
This story has also fired up other Tea Party groups across the country that have had the laws and fees applied unequally in regards to Tea Party rallies and Occupy protest camps. The message coming from mayors in numerous cities is that they are willing to spend millions in taxpayer money to accommodate the Occupiers that are breaking the law but have no problem charging Tea Party groups that follow the law exorbitant fees and making them jump through hoops to acquire permits.(Yahoo News)
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 uses 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.
Richmond Tea Party