NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - New Hanover County workers call "prominent" people and give them a heads up if their name is about to appear on the county's annual delinquent taxpayers list, according to New Hanover County Manager Bruce Shell. But not everyone is afforded the same privilege.
By law, the county has to publish a list of delinquent taxpayers each year. They are required to send a letter to each person on the list, but not make a call.
"If it's a prominent person I know about, I'll call him," County Manager Bruce Shell said. "If it's someone that the county does business with, I'll call them. So, it just varies year to year, but its not a favoritism thing. It's a heads up issue."
When WECT.com asked if the calls only to prominent people and large accounts were fair, Shell answered, "Yeah, I do. I think it's fair."
This week, workers have been making those calls as they finalize the list. One person to get such a notification was New Hanover County State Senator Thom Goolsby. His law firm was included on an early version of the list for a $3,112 bill after the county mailed the bill to the wrong address. The money has since been paid and Goolsby won't appear on the list that is published in the newspaper.
However, Goolsby's opponent in this year's state Senate election, Deb Butler, was also on the list this week and did not get a phone call. Butler tells WECT.com she learned about her inclusion from the Wilmington StarNews. Late Friday afternoon, the county released its latest delinquent tax list and both Goolsby and Butler, along with 56 others, have been taken off the updated version.
At least one local county, Columbus, does not have the same policy as New Hanover. Workers send a letter in Columbus County, but do not call prominent citizens.
While one delinquent taxpayer on the list told WECT.com the heads up phone calls are good management, Butler says this current system is unfair.