[Editor's note: this story is a preview to a segment that will run on the Glenn Beck Program on GBTV tonight.]
Occupy Richmond is quick to accuse corporations of not playing by the rules, and millionaires of not paying their "fair" share. So when the Richmond Tea Party learned that the City of Richmond was permitting protesters to "occupy" public space without paying, the local tea partiers felt it was only fair that the city reimburse them for past rally expenses.
But instead of making sure that everyone played by the rules, the city served Richmond Tea Party with a notice that it was being audited. Not the answer they had hoped for after invoicing Mayor Dwight Jones for reimbursement of the $8,500 they had paid for complying with city procedures during their rallies at Kanawha plaza.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that an auditor with the Department of Finance sent the Richmond Tea Party a letter on November 14 telling the political organization to provide tax records related to its meals, admissions, and personal property, and advising that the group it was being audited for nonpayment of taxes in 2010 and 2011
A spokeswoman for the Richmond Tea Party called the letter "a little coincidental," telling the Times-Dispatch that it appears to be another example of the city's unequal treatment of the group.
"What did they send to Occupy (Richmond)? Obviously, there's nothing to send to them because they didn't have (a business license or rally permit)," said Colleen Owens, a spokeswoman for the Richmond Tea Party. "It's kind of adding insult to injury. We complained about the unequal treatment, and they turned around and piled on more."
Jones' office claims the issue is not political. The Mayor's Press Secretary Tammy D. Hawley told the Times-Dispatch that the Richmond Tea Party was one of about 700 taxpayers that were identified as noncompliant during a recent system-led review. Owens maintained Monday that the Richmond Tea Party had submitted the necessary forms every month for the past two years.
On November 15, the Virginia Right blog posted incomplete invoices obtained from the city totaling $7,000 showing that the City of Richmond willingly paid for toilets and cleanup for an Occupy Richmond "event" at Kanawha Plaza, the same location where the Richmond Tea Party has paid to use for rallies in the past. The blog noted that the invoices do not include what the city will have to pay in "police overtime, health inspector’s time and countless other expenses that we do not yet know about."
Mayor Jones has not responded to Richmond Tea Party requests to meet in regards to the unequal treatment of their group in comparison to Occupy Richmond. The Mayor, however, met with representatives of Occupy Richmond on November 18, at his invitation.
The city had shut down the Occupy Wall Street encampment after about two weeks, on October 31. But since November 15, the Occupy Richmond protesters have been camping in the yard of Jones' next-door neighbor, Richmond Free Press Editor and Publisher Raymond H. Boone. The Times-Dispatch reports that Boone, who has welcomed the protesters, was cited last week for a zoning-ordinance violation.
The Richmond Tea Party says they received a letter from the city acknowledging that they had received their invoice. The next response they received was the audit letter.
The Richmond Tea Party has already posted this statement on their website following the audit:
"We are the Tea Party and, therefore, have followed every applicable tax law to this point, including filing all the proper forms. We will file them again, though, to satisfy the audit requirements. But that won’t be the last the City of Richmond hears from the Richmond Tea Party and the American people.
The City is now openly rewarding and financing lawlessness, while punishing and charging the law-abiding. These actions represent the kind of bullying and abuse of power the American people have come to expect from those in office and are now dedicated to stopping. We stand united in holding accountable every last corrupt politician, no matter which office they hold or at which level they serve."
A representative from the Richmond Tea Party will be on with Glenn Beck on GBTV tonight to discuss their frustration with Mayor Jones' treatment of their group, and the city's response to their protest.
Leette Eaton-White contributed to this report.