The suit was filed in Mingo Circuit court by attorney Erwin Conrad on behalf of Clayton Cline, president of Triple C.
Cline was given a tax exoneration by the Mingo County Commission, acting as the Board of Equalization, in February 2008. The amount of the taxes that were forgiven was approximately $35,000, for property taxes on two pieces of mining equipment.
Mingo Sheriff Lonnie Hannah says he feels the exoneration was unlawful. However, the appeal period for anyone who wants a tax exoneration to be reconsidered is 30 days, and no one came forth within 30 days of the action by the Board of Equalization.
In April of this year, the state tax department reviewed the matter, and has since instructed Mingo County Assessor Ramona Mahon to put the equipment back on the tax books for 2008, that Triple C would in fact have to pay taxes on the equipment.
Cline’s suit alleges the issue of the tax break is not about money owed to the county, but has to do with the upcoming election.
Sheriff Lonnie Hannah is running for a spot on the County Commission against incumbent Commissioner John Mark Hubbard, who was one of three commissioners who granted the exoneration.
The suit states that, although the tax commission was aware of the action taken by the board, “The Tax Commissioner did not file an appropriate and timely Appeal. . . no such Appeal was filed within the following two years.” The suit points out that the tax records have been available during that time to the commission and to the sheriff.
The suit further says H. Truman Chafin, who is running against another current commissioner, Greg “Hootie” Smith, began the process of bringing the matter to the attention of the state tax commissioner. Chafin is running against Smith for State Senate. Chafin requested an audio recording of the Board of Equalization meeting “two months before the election”, the suit states, and “implied the Tax Commissioners office was previously unaware of the action of the Mingo County Commission.”
Erwin Conrad, attorney for Triple C, told the Daily News he has no doubt the case is about politics, not county finances.
“You don’t let something sit for two year, ignoring proper lawful processes, and then bring it forward right before an election,” Conrad said. “It is clear this was done for the election and not for the merit of it.”