Wilmington City Council approves penalties for officials failing to disclose default fees
Wilmington City Council members voted Thursday night to approve an ordinance mandating elected and appointed city employees disclose any default payments – or face serious consequences.
Payments subject to the ordinance include all city fees such as property taxes, water/sewer fees, license and inspection fees, parking or red light fines and more.
Failure to intentionally disclose is a misdemeanor that comes with a fine of up to 23 hundred dollars and possibly a year in jail.
Councilman Robert Williams co-sponsored the ordinance with Council President Theopalis Gregory.
“If you’re a head of a municipality and you’re looking to raise taxes, you wouldn’t go out to the citizens and tell them, I’ll put a lean against your house and I’ll take your property if employees aren’t paying. I got a problem with that, so this is just a leveling up.”
Gregory only agreed to co-sponser the ordinance if it were to apply solely to elected and appointed officials and not all city employees.
Gregory also expressed concerned it could apply to those who inadvertently, not intentionally, failed to disclose delinquent fees. However, since the ordinance only applies to those who intentionally fail to report default fees, he was willing to support it.
“I have a lot of kids and they drive my car. And I don’t know when they have tickets and they don’t tell me. They could come and I’d say I have nothing outstanding," Gregory said. "They could have driven my car and not given me the ticket. So that would be a negligent or inadvertent act.”
Williams says while he was initially adamant the rule should apply to all city employees, he’ll take this compromise.
"I’m a retired police officer and I decided what hill am I willing to die on. And I wasn’t willing to die on that hill, so I retreated and I took the ground that I could get," Williams said. "That was elected and appointed, that’s what my colleagues asked for, that’s what I amended it to. I’d like to give it a year or two and then see if it can be re-addressed for all employees."
Only payments in default will be determined delinquent, not obligations subject to a payment arrangement.
Councilman Michael Brown said he initially intended to vote against the ordinance, but that “something fell down and hit him on the head” and made him change his mind. Anyways, he said, he “he won’t be here next year.” He will be retiring in December.