Under protest, resort manager pays tax bill

Under protest, resort manager pays tax bill
By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Richard Spicer has some major concerns about the way the Samburg mayor and board of aldermen are spending the city’s hotel/motel tax revenues.
He is the manager of the Southshore Family Resort in Samburg and is involved in an ongoing dispute with Samburg city officials over the city’s hotel/motel tax.
Spicer has taken issue with city officials over how the money has been spent.
It wasn’t until this week that Spicer paid his resort’s hotel/motel tax to the city, under protest.
Spicer paid his hotel/motel tax bill — $5,194.48 — dating back to April 2011. His checks for the amount were received at Samburg City Hall on Monday by certified mail.
The bills were paid under protest, as have all his hotel/motel tax payments to the city. In a letter accompanying his payments, Spicer stated, “These checks were written each month as per the normal course of business and were withheld under protest until this matter was to be resolved. This money is being paid under protest, as I firmly believe that is not lawful for the City of Samburg to be collecting these monies under the current Hotel/Motel Law Ordinance.”
During an interview Wednesday afternoon, Spicer said, “This all started when we started hearing how they were spending the money.”
He sat at a table inside his Southshore Resort with a blue folder in front of him. Inside the folder was a stack of paperwork documenting his battle with the city over the hotel/motel tax.
“It was never a money issue,” he said. “I withheld it to get their attention.”
In fact, Spicer said he believes the hotel/motel tax is a “wonderful law” and said his father — the late J.T. Spicer — even helped draft the ordinance. What he takes issue with is the way the current city administration has been spending the tax revenues.
He said he attended three board meeting this past year “and was not allowed to speak.”
“There are just a lot of things they’re doing wrong,” Spicer said.
He has had an ongoing battle with the city over the hotel/motel tax revenues and said although his resort is just down the street from City Hall, he hasn’t had any conversations with the mayor or any board members regarding his complaints.
“I’m hearing nothing from no one,” Spicer said. “It’s ridiculous. All I ever wanted was the money to be spent properly.”
To go along with his grievance, Spicer has researched state law concerning the city’s hotel/motel tax. He is highly critical of Mayor Larry Gene Davis in particular and in writing he states, “Town Mayor Larry Davis or Town Recorder Mary Swain will not agree to provide the requested data or documents which I have requested in my several letters on this issue within the last year. One letter was even a Tennessee Public Records Act request. I wanted to know what authority the Town of Samburg government is using to claim it can collect an occupancy or transient tax (motel tax) on tourist that stay in the Town of Samburg.”
Spicer has waged an all-out campaign to fight the city over the hotel/motel tax and has even met with an investigator at the local district attorney’s office concerning the issue. He said he was advised to pay the tax and pursue the issue with the state comptroller’s office.
Some of his complaints against the city include missing town records and a lack of audits of the hotel/motel tax funds. He cites the 1989 Tennessee law — Public Chapter No. 65.
“I think the Town’s Ordinance No. 2011-03 is in violation of the requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-4-503 et seq. and Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-4-1425(a) (2),” Spicer states in one of his correspondences.  “As stated in section No. 6 of the above Tennessee law, annual audits shall be done annually by the Town Mayor of each lodging operator in the Town of Samburg at least once a year and he (Town Mayor) shall furnish each member of the Town’s government a copy of these audits. The general public can review and inspect these public audits, where are these annual audits?”
Spicer said he was upset when he read The Messenger’s news articles from the Samburg board meetings.
He said the mayor and board should be “responsible to the law and the money.”
Spicer said he wants people to know he is not a deadbeat taxpayer, but was simply protesting the way the town has handled the hotel/motel tax revenues.
“They need to be audited so we can see what they’ve done with the money,” Spicer said. “It was never about the money. They need to follow the law and they’re not doing it.”
Spicer even ran a half-page ad in the Lake County Banner on Jan. 18 protesting the hotel/motel tax. His ad was headlined: “A LETTER TO THE CITY OF SAMBURG” and was directed specifically at town recorder Mary Swain. The paid advertisement basically published a copy of Spicer’s Jan. 13 letter to Samburg and his opposition to “Samburg’s claimed Hotel/Motel Tax Ordinance No. 2011-03.”
Spicer has sent several certified letters to The Messenger and to Samburg’s town recorder, all of which question the legality of the city’s hotel/motel tax.
The Samburg mayor and board of aldermen meet at 5:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall. Spicer said he was unsure whether he will attend the meeting.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 2.2.12

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