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Former Mayor Says Councilman Should Resign Due To Unpaid Taxes

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CAROLINA BEACH - Former Carolina Beach Mayor Ray Rothrock resigned his seat in November along with Councilman Lonnie Lashley after the Council announced the resignation of Town Manager Tim Owens. Rothrock and Lashley resigned in opposition to that move.
On Sunday December 9, Rothrock sent an email to area media questioning whether Councilman Bob Lewis should be appointed as Mayor due to unpaid taxes on his boat and trailer. Rothrock said Lewis should resign and pay his past due taxes.
Following Rothrock and Lashley's resignations, three Council members were left with the task of appointing members to fill those vacant seats. Those are Bob Lewis, Steve Shuttleworth and Sarah Friede.
Rothrock explained, "The talk around Town is Councilman Bob Lewis will be appointed Mayor at the December 11th Council Meeting.  Should Councilman Lewis not pay his Personal Property Taxes for the past five years on his Boat and Trailer before he is considered to be the Mayor of Carolina Beach?"
Rothrock explained, "It appears that back in October 2007, Councilman Lewis registered his boat with North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission; however, he never reported, as required, to New Hanover County Tax Office that he owned a boat and trailer.  He also apparently renewed his boat registration with NC Wildlife Resource Commission in 2010 for another three years, but again, NO report to New Hanover County Tax Office."
He continued, "This results in Councilman Lewis NOT paying New Hanover County and Town of Carolina Beach the appropriate Personal Property Taxes he should have been paying since October 2007. It is also suspected he has never paid any Property Taxes on the Boat Trailer either. Each year when you receive your Personal Property Bill, it also contains information about reporting all Personal Properties you might own. Apparently Councilman Lewis never took time to read the information that was sent to him in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, or was it a way of avoiding paying Personal Property Taxes due to Carolina Beach and New Hanover County? Could it be his thoughts were, Council Members are exempt from Personal Property Taxes?"
Rothrock wrote, "Should anyone be sitting on Carolina Beach Town Council, making rules and regulations (Ordinances) that affect all of we residents, when they do not abide by the existing laws and do not pay required Personal Property Taxes? Councilman Lewis needs to resign, pay his past due taxes, along with interest and penalties, learn to set a better example and certainly not attempt to serve on Carolina Beach Council in the future.  Mayor Pro-Tem Shuttleworth and Councilwoman Friede should not appoint Councilman Lewis to be Mayor of Carolina Beach. This information can be easily verified with New Hanover County Tax Office."
Councilman Bob Lewis responded to Rothrock's statements Tuesday December 11.
Lewis explained, "I did not know that boats were included in the county personal property tax category, as prior to moving to North Carolina I lived in states without a separate personal property tax. Of course Ray submitted his email to the news media when most people knew I was out of town on vacation with my grand children but WWAY caught up with me by cell in Orlando."
Lewis explained, "When WWAY TV reported the issue being I did not pay my property taxes they meant to say personal property tax on a used boat I purchased back in 2007.  I assumed just like with my automobiles that when I registered my boat with the State of North Carolina that I would receive a county tax bill if applicable just as I do with my other vehicles.  New Hanover County has billed me for personal property tax on both of my vehicles and my home property tax but never sent me a bill for my boat so I assumed it was not included under the county personal property tax program.   Once I was made aware of the issue I immediately took the responsibility of registering it at the New Hanover County Tax office."
He explained, "When I purchased my used boat (2001 19’ Sea Strike, Center Console in 2007 I paid $12,000.00 for the boat and motor (without any trailer this can be verified with a local marina).  I did not have a trailer for years using friends to launch and take my boat out of the water a couple times a year, but I recently purchased a $500.00 trailer which personal property taxes are not due until May 1st, of 2013.  The New Hanover Tax office did say it is not uncommon for individuals who move into the county who purchase used boats, trailers or golf carts not to know to register them separately at the county office.   For some reason the state department of wildlife does not provide New Hanover County with an electronic version of registrations like the NCDMV does."
Lewis stated, "I was surprised to hear that there are a huge number of golf carts which are not street legal in New Hanover County and as such are not registered with the county as personal property. It is no excuse but I am sure I am not the only resident who has made the same error when purchasing a used boat, trailer or golf cart and with today’s electronic world it is difficult to image that state registration electronic files would not be provided from state to local and county government.  Fortunately for us in Carolina Beach we have a watchdog like Ray running around town looking in our yards keeping track of boats, trailers and golf carts."
Lewis thanked Rothrock for bringing the issue to his attention and then criticized the former Mayor on various issues.  
Lewis explained, "I guess you can relate the registering a personal property item to the mandatory registration for a Town of Carolina
Beach vehicle identification sticker which is required on every motor vehicle registered in the state of North Carolina with a Carolina Beach address.  Based on Ray’s recommendations submitted to the Police Advisory Commission on his first month in office he wanted our police department to enforce the ordinance covering these $5 stickers.  So our Police officers would spend their time pulling residents over to inspect their sticker and citing them with a $50 ticket if they did not have one.  Is that really a good use of our police officers time?"
Lewis said, "One would think the original idea of the sticker was to provide identification for residents who want to return to their homes after a natural disaster but it is on the books as a mandatory law.   Based on the number of stickers purchased each year there could be literally thousands of vehicles in violation of this town ordinance.   In many states they referred to these small additional tax items as a nuisance tax."
He explained, "I can only guess that this issue was raised by Ray because my neighbors have reported seeing Ray in my neighborhood driving up a dead end street and turning into the our cul-de-sac where I live and in front of my house when I am out of town on business.  Coincidentally someone just recently contacted my employer to verify if I worked there.  I am sure Ray was really disappointed when he found out that I was never been arrested or convicted of assault or battery.  I have never been arrested or convicted of a DUI or the fact that I have never been arrested period over my lifetime."
Lewis said, "I can only guess that Ray is focusing his attention on me because as a fiscally responsible council member:  I voted” not to raise your property taxes” this year based on just tightening the budget a bit, I voted against panicking and running out to buy more real estate and build a huge operations building with your tax dollars, or that I refused to allow a change to the R1 and R3 residential neighborhoods so a commercial town operations building could be built in the middle of residential housing, or that I would not agree to consider condemning parcels (taking acres of land via eminent domain) of property that Ray felt the town could use for a new operations lot and building."
Lewis said, "Just to summarize I have registered my boat with the tax office of New Hanover County and will be billed and will be paying for all of the personal property taxes owed.  I am not going to resign my office as I am not a quitter and I do not run from a challenge.  I am however going to continue to focus my attention on finding solutions to the challenges that face our town on a daily basis.  I am also going to continue to provide thought leadership around innovative processes and best practices to continue to reduce our cost of government and ensure you the taxpayer receive the best value for every tax dollar spent.   The easy thing for a part-time elected official to do while in office is to not invest time in evaluating options, developing solid solutions and implementing well thought out plans."
He said, "Some elected officials have chosen to go out and buy up huge parcels of land, build huge underutilized town buildings, add town employees, buy additional town vehicles and increase taxes to cover it all just like other government entities.  The tough thing to do is to find ways to negotiate better pricing, utilize existing space and property, negotiate better financing rates, hold contractors to deadlines and cost estimates,
bid out annual contracts and find and apply for grant money to help offset investments in infrastructure and community recreational projects.  The latter is the path that the three members of council have chosen since taking office."
Lewis concluded stating, "If I get criticized for not raising taxes, not spending money on wasteful projects, not giving in to pressure to spend your tax dollars foolishly or not giving in to those who want to use condemnation to force people out of their properties then so be it."
Rothrock emailed further comments on Tuesday taking issue with the wording of a report  on WWAY TV3.
He offered background on why he looked into Lewis' tax information.
He explained, "Here is what generated me going to New Hanover County Tax Office to inquire about Lewis not reporting ownership and not paying Personal Property Taxes on his boat and trailer he registered with North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission back in the fall of 2007.  A friend, Carolina Beach citizen, resident, and voter came to me and wanted to talk about Lewis, a Council Member, not paying taxes on his boat and trailer.  He said if he had to pay taxes on his boat, Lewis should be paying taxes also. After listening to this concerned citizen, I told him I would got to the NHC Tax Office and obtain the Public Information."
Rothrock explained, "I shared the public information with the concerned citizen and he asked how this public information could and should be made available to all Carolina Beach residents. I told him I thought the best distribution to the most citizens would be via the media. He said he could not do that and asked me to do it for him. I agreed to do it and have done it."
Rothrock explained, " After viewing and reading the article on WWAY TV3, I am reminded as to why I will not talk to WWAY on camera.  They have difficulty in reporting what is written and/or said.  The headlines for their article "ONLY ON 3: Former CB mayor says councilman's tax bill proofhe's unfit leader" are the words of WWAY, not mine.