by Max Brantley
We've written a couple of times — here and also here — about a publicity stunt by Pulaski and Saline County tax collectors — Debra Buckner and Joy Ballard, respectively — to stage a media event over collection of $900 in business personal property taxes said to be owed in Saline County by Dizzy's, a Little Rock restaurant that moved in late 2009 from Benton.
Dizzy's owner Darla Huie wasn't happy then and the more she's thought about it the less happy she's become. She's written the following statement (including a call for the resignation of Buckner and Ballard) to friends, neighbors and other businesses (UPDATE: Buckner has compiled of file of documents explaining and defending her actions):
EMAIL FROM DARLA HUIE
Tax Collectors Debra Buckner (Pulaski County) and Joy Ballard (Saline County) claim their actions against Dizzy's Gypsy Bistro were "defensible."
You be the judge in the court of public opinion...with the inclusion, following, of federal debt collection guidelines.
Dizzy's was not on a delinquency list in Pulaski county. The referenced taxes were not due until October. In Saline County, $900 was due. One letter was received by Dizzy's, regarding this mistake, 30 days prior to the media attack orchestrated by collectors Ballard and Buckner.
The women conspired to contact the media, using misleading press release statements to mobilize both electronic and print media outlets, admittedly, to embarrass and humiliate us, personally and professionally, as an "example" to others.
They (Ballard and Buckner) have repeatedly cited a little known loophole allowing one county to help in tax collection for another county. They fail to mention that, generally, businesses subjected to this loophole are selected by dollar amount or number of years in delinquency, nor is the media inviolved, nor does the official not owed taxes by the entity in question lead the media attack.
They failed, initially, to clarify Dizzy's was not delinquent in Pulaski county and Saline county had not made a good faith effort to collect $900.
Most importantly, the women failed to adequately consider FEDERAL LAWS which protect taxpayers-
Specifically, with regard to the synthetic press hysteria they maliciously manufactured, the following guidelines were ignored by Ballard and Buckner-
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits:
•False and misleading statements
•Harassment, intimidation or embarrassment
•Intentional or negligent infliction of distress
•Invasion of privacy
•Abuse of process
Courts have previously ruled Sole Proprietorships not to be separate from the individual. Given the flagrant disregard, by both women, in the well documented event last week, for all federally prohibited collection behaviors listed above, we are asking both women apologize publicly and resign.
Abuse of office, abuse of power, misleading the press, blatant dishonesty, malicious prosecution, etc is not acceptable on the part of our elected officials. It should frighten all citizens. Don't let the Buckner-Ballard debacle happen to you.
Debra Buckner 340-6040
Joy Ballard 303-5620
& help protect all taxpayers from unethical officials.
Thanks for all the support you've shown. This has been a difficult, humiliating experience. Your encouragement has been our strength.