I am puzzled why several Town Council members interpreted my discrete “heads up” email to them concerning the illegality of the environmental fee as a legal threat. I never mentioned legal action and even offered to get them a free opinion from the Attorney General on its legality – an act that would prevent legal action. This following a free legal opinion from legislative council, the state’s bill drafters, who determined that the environmental fee was not really a fee but most likely an illegally enacted property tax.
Nothing that I wrote was a threat. I said, “I thought that you should know about this prior to discussions on expansion of the environmental fee into other areas. Beyond the issue of the fee’s legality, you should also consider the possibility of having to return monies collected, which could be sizeable were you to expand the tax and collect it for a couple of years before the issue is brought up and possibly resolved against the Town.”
I am also perplexed why one councilman questioned why I did not raise the issue of the fee’s illegality when it was passed and my wife was mayor, suggesting that I was protecting her. But she was one of the two votes against the fee (illegal tax).
Furthermore, I explained my actual reason for intervening now in my email, which said, “The recent publicity surrounding the expansion of the environment fee into other areas prompted some constituents to question me about its legality based upon their belief that it is a property tax, which requires voter approval, as opposed to a fee that may be imposed by the town council alone.”
Regardless of the town’s need for funds, passing an illegal tax is never justified. No one is above the law, especially elected officials.