Complaints allege improper county actions on referendum

Published 3:31 pm Thursday, October 23, 2008

One complaint alleges that the referendum committee distributed misleading materials which lead the public to believe that Polk County is advocating the approval of the transfer tax. The first complaint also alleges that the referendum committee failed to properly disclose who paid for the materials, which is required by law.

The second complaint alleges that the county has participated in distributing materials supporting the transfer tax. It says materials have been distributed by the Polk County Agricultural Economic Development and Farmland Preservation Board, the Polk County Agricultural Advisory Board, Polk County and the Polk County Board of Commissioners.

According to N.C. law, the county cannot advocate for, or spend money to support a position on a tax referendum. The role the county is to play, according to law, is to educate the public on the ballot issue.

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Polk County Board of Elections Director Dale Edwards said she received the petitions Monday and forwarded those to the N.C. State Board of Elections attorney Don Wright. The state board of elections is proceeding to investigate the claims, Edwards said.

John Wallace is the attorney who drafted the complaints and has said these are serious allegations and he hopes they will be investigated immediately by either the county or state board of elections.

Polk County has placed a land transfer tax referendum on this November&squo;s ballot in order to charge a tax of up to 0.4 percent on property transfers. The tax would be $800 on the sale of a $200,000 house.

Current county commissioners have said they support using the revenue for farmland preservation.

The ballot will not include any language regarding how the money would be used, only a yes or no selection indicating whether the voter supports the additional tax.