WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- It's a million-dollar question: What is the state Board of Elections required to do so New Hanover County can move forward to collect a sales tax voters approved?
We reported last night the county was moving forward to certify the vote after the state formally notified former County Commission candidate Justin LaNasa by mail that his appeal of the vote had been denied. We have now learned that the way LaNasa was served by mail may not be adequate under the law. Plus, LaNasa says New Hanover County deputies drove to Greensboro last night to serve him in person at a relative's house.
"About 10 p.m. I received a call from my brother," LaNasa said, "and he told me that the New Hanover County Sheriff's (deputies) and the Guilford County Sheriff's (deputies) were at his door with a white piece of paper trying to serve me. They said it was non-criminal, and it was nothing to worry about, but they just have to give me this piece of paper. Where was Justin LaNasa?"
LaNasa is on vacation out of state. County and state officials have been trying to track him down to serve him with paperwork that his appeal of May's sales tax vote was rejected. Since they haven't been able to find him, they've taped a copy of the paperwork to the door of his house in Monkey Junction. July 1, the state Board of Elections also mailed him a copy of their decision and said the county can certify the tax increase 13 days after the paperwork was mailed.
"They just want to put the rumor out that they served me and that way I might come back from vacation early or come back home," LaNasa said.
The law says LaNasa must be served "personally, or through delivery by US mail, or a designated delivery service... if that delivery provides a record of the date and time of delivery." The general counsel for the state Board of Election told us he simply mailed the notice through regular mail, and did not request delivery confirmation. Despite extreme efforts to serve LaNasa in person, the county insists LaNasa's already been served as far as it's concerned.
"We have no concerns," Assistant County Manager Chris Coudriet said. "We contend that it was appropriately served, our reading of the statute, and we have the opinion of five different attorneys that he was served appropriately through the US mail."
If that's not adequate under the law, and LaNasa doesn't think it is, it may mean the county has to wait until January 1 to begin collecting the tax instead of October. The lost revenue during the fall, including the holidays, could cost the county almost $1 million.
LaNasa is not finished fighting this. Once he is served by the state Board of Elections, he plans to appeal to Wake County Superior Court, which is the next court of appeal in an election process. The NC Conservative Coastal Coalition is helping LaNasa raise money for legal fees to fight the sales tax. You can contribute in increments as small as five dollars. Make checks payable to NC CCC and put "Fund to Fight Sales Tax" in the memo line. Checks can be mailed to NC CCC, 116 N. Front Street, Unit 1, Wilmington, NC 28401.