County goes easy on delinquent taxpayers

County Manager Ricky Harris isn’t stupid, nor do we find him to be vindictive, but he has shown himself again to be a good soldier, one who understands his marching orders.

Harris has publicly proclaimed it was his decision to move the tax notices away from this newspaper, whose reach in this community is the longest by far, and to the Robeson Journal, whose circulation is modest and whose website unattended.

But we know better — and you do too.

This is another of the back-room deals that our commissioners are so notorious for, and while we don’t know exactly who issued the orders, they require the approval of Chairman Raymond Cummings. So we have another descriptive for Cummings and his minions. They are cowards, willing to let their county manager fall on the public sword for their dumb deeds.

These four commissioners are trying to hurt this newspaper — an employer of dozens, a payer of county taxes, the place local folks go in the highest numbers to know what is happening, and a civic-minded partner in this community — because we have told the truth about their scandalous behavior.

And their aim is off. We will be fine — and we won’t be intimidated.

The problem is that the public, once again, is victimized by their juvenile behavior.

The reason state law requires local governments to publish notices of those who are terribly tardy in paying their taxes is to discourage delinquency. When the commissioners decide to publish the notices in a newspaper that is not widely circulated and difficult to even find, then those who have not paid their taxes dodge the full measure of that shame.

It is true too that a significant number of the thousands of people who are delinquent on their taxes are unaware, and are more likely to discover that they owe if the information is widely broadcast.

That could happen to anyone, and apparently did to two commissioners, Cummings and Roger Oxendine, who had not paid their taxes in early February, making them about a month late. At the time this newspaper elected not to do a story immediately, and through Harris sent a message that the taxes be paid within a week unless Cummings and Oxendine wanted to see their photographs under a page 1A store titled: “Two commissioners tardy on taxes.”

We felt like we did them a favor, although we know they didn’t see it that way.

We know also that at least one commissioner is an habitual buyer of property that is in foreclosure, so when information is not widely disseminated on properties in danger of foreclosure, that could work to his benefit when he writes the check.

Still, it is baffling why the county would contort itself to keep that information from being easily seen. The lost revenue for this newspaper really isn’t that much.

We had to look hard, and while we didn’t enlist a pack of Boy Scouts and a K-9 officer, it did take awhile before we could actually find a Robeson Journal dated May 23. We have studied the list hard, and will be doing some cross-referencing to make sure that the names of all the taxpayers who remain delinquent were in fact published.

Perhaps there will be more answers in what we find — or what we don’t find.

It is the commissioners we keep putting into office who are making this happen. When they allow taxpayers to joyfully skip away from their obligation, the rest of us pay for that dereliction.