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Charleston Auditor Takes Questions, Provides Few Answers

Warwick Jones
Citizen Reporter

It could have been a Hollywood western. Bristling with bravado, Big Ma Mosley marches up to the bar, orders a double whiskey. She downs it and glares at her adversaries. With a hand on her holster she flintily flings out a challenge. “What’s ye’r beef boys? Y' gotta problem?”

OK, it was not exactly like that. But the appearance of County Auditor Peggy Moseley before the Charleston County Finance Committee on Nov. 9 was more theater than enlightening.

Moseley was asked to appear before the committee to give an explanation as to why there has been a long delay in sending out the 2011 tax bills. They were due to be sent out some weeks ago and council was concerned.

As Councilman Elliott Summey said at the last finance committee meeting, the delay could have an adverse impact, especially on municipalities and agencies that were relying on the tax revenue. They may be forced to borrow to fill any financing gap.

Most members asked questions and sometimes it was the same question – when were the bills going to be sent out? And some reiterated that the purpose of the request for her presence was to get information, not to attack her or her staff.

Most of Moseley’s replies sounded as though they traveled along a barrel of a Colt .45, but none of the verbal projectiles seem to hit the mark that committee members had set before her.

It seemed that all tax notices would get out when she could be sure there were no errors. She hoped that that would be the following day for some but she would not know then if there were errors.

So if there were another error, it would have to be eliminated before posting. Cutting through the verbiage, there was no commitment to timing; it all depended on the elimination of errors.

The source of the errors still seems unclear. Mosley blamed it on the new Manitron system that the county put in place. Other seems to place the blame on errors in the data that was loaded into the system. And then there was the unspoken alternative that the auditor’s office had not been up to the task.

Mosley scoffed at the idea that notices could be sent out that could be identified as having no errors. This was like trying to drink warm tea only from the side of a cup. All the notices had to be printed together she said. She did say that notices to the top 20 taxpayers in the county had been sent out, but this was hardly a satisfactory sop to committee members.

After about 20 minutes, Moseley dismounted from her high horse and, to their applause, joined the sidekicks and cowpokes from the auditor’s office who had ridden to the meeting in her support. Committee members were still wondering.

Warwick Jones is a resident of Charleston and has been involved with a number of area organizations, including the Charleston County Greenbelt Advisory Board and the Preservation Society of Charleston.

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