RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration said on Tuesday evening that City Auditor Umesh Dalal and Finance Director John Wack had reached an agreement on a disputed audit involving the city’s tax collection efforts.
After a private meeting at Richmond City Hall, the mayor’s press secretary Jim Nolan sent 8News the following statement:
“The Auditor and Finance Director agreed to work together to define an agreed upon scope for a review of revenue administration, working within the bounds of the relevant statutes protecting taxpayer information. The yet-to-be agreed upon scope will define what data will be turned over.”
The finance department had previously held off on giving Dalal key information for months, according to Dalal.
“If they block us from having our representative, our person from looking at the books, it’s very easy for (the city) to cover things up,” said Richmond taxpayer Spencer Turner, who told 8News that he and other taxpayers have been calling city hall, demanding Dalal be allowed to review the city’s tax collection efforts.
Dalal told the audit committee last week that city finance officials had blocked his efforts to complete an audit on the city’s revenues.
“This revenue that we’re talking about is almost $100 million,” he said during a March 14th audit committee meeting. “Accountability and transparency on that sort of revenue is utmost necessary.”
Richmond finance officials had countered that under state law they are not required to share the information with the auditor’s office.
During the March 14th meeting, Dalal pointed out the very next section of state code:
“That section authorizes the finance director to request an audit. In that case, the finance director could share that information with the auditors,” Dalal said.
The showdown came to a head on March 20th when, according to published reports, Finance Director John Wack accused Dalal of misusing taxpayer data without provide any support for the claim.
“(The finance department) presented an accusation in public against a man who has enormous integrity and credibility with the citizens of Richmond,” Turner told 8News.
The dispute appeared to be resolved by Tuesday night, according to the Mayor’s office. “The Mayor and Council President Hilbert want the departments to come together to find a solution toward our common goal – identifying the best processes for the Revenue Administration Unit to collect the outstanding taxes owed to the City,” the city’s statement continued. “They hope this meeting is a step toward that important objective.”
As of January 31st, Richmond is owed more than $54 million dollars in back taxes. That includes personal property tax, real estate and business license tax delinquents. To encourage collection, Mayor Stoney is proposing a tax amnesty period. But first, it would have to be approved by City Council.