Hollingsworth responds to Walker's allegations

Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth on Thursday denied using the powers of her office to single out Stanley Walker —son of First Ward Alderman and 2012 mayoral candidate Thelma Walker — from the city’s delinquent taxpayer list and order the closing of his restaurant.

Walker made the allegation against Hollingsworth as part of a formal complaint filed Oct. 11 with the Arkansas Ethics Commission.

“The mayor has singled me out and openly discriminated against me because I am black and because I am the son of Councilwoman Thelma Walker,” Walker wrote in his complaint. “It should be noted again that Councilwoman Thelma Walker was a candidate for mayor against Mayor Hollingsworth.”

Hollingsworth provided The Commercial with documents supporting her assertion that she did not abuse the powers of her office as alleged by Walker in his ethics complaint. View the documents in PDF format by clicking here.

“I did not use my position as Mayor of Pine Bluff to try to force closure upon Aisha’s Fish & Chicken, the business of Mr. Stanley Walker, due to non-payment of delinquent taxes,” Hollingsworth said in a statement. “I have supplied documentation establishing the responsible parties in this matter, the delinquent accounts and the structure of the current relevant law. The Finance Committee of the Advertising & Promotion Commission is the governing body which has direct oversight of the ‘hamburger tax.’ The City Collector’s Office issues and renews business licenses in addition to functioning as the conduit for receiving and remitting the ‘hamburger tax’ for the A & P Commission. The Mayor’s Office is the governing body which has direct oversight with regards to the City Collector.”

Hollingsworth said that all enforcement actions taken against businesses that are delinquent in their ‘hamburger tax’ payments, are based on the provisions of City Ordinance No. 6422, which was adopted by the Pine Bluff city council on Dec. 17, 2012.

“The license issued pursuant to this ordinance may be revoked or suspended by the City Collector for the following causes,” the text of the ordinance reads. “ … (b) failure to pay any taxes as required by ordinance, penalties, interest, tax deposits, attorney’s fees, court costs fees, excise tax, occupational tax or other tax, license or fee by licensee.”

Hollingsworth provided copies of correspondence establishing that Bob Purvis, executive director of the Pine Bluff A & P Commission, sent letters dated Jan. 17, 2013, and May 17, 2013, advising Stanley Walker that he was delinquent in paying his gross receipts taxes and that in each case a Certificate of Indebtedness for Tax Due would be filed with the Circuit Clerk.

Hollingworth provided copies of court filings by Purvis against Walker in which he filed a Certificate of Indebtedness for Tax Due with the Circuit Clerk on Feb. 19, 2013, regarding past due tax amounts for Aisha’s for the period August-November, 2012; and a second certificate filed with the Circuit Clerk on June 19, 2013, for the period December 2012-March 2013.

In addition, Hollingsworth provided copies of a pair of letters — dated Feb. 22 and April 24, 2013 — from the City Collector’s Office to Walker regarding delinquent gross receipts taxes and citing City Ordinance No. 6422.

A letter from the city collector dated Feb. 22, 2013, advised Walker that his business was more than 90 days delinquent in reporting and/or paying its gross receipts taxes.

“You have 30 days from the date of your receipt (as verified by U. S. Postal Service delivery confirmation) to report and pay all delinquent taxes and fees,” then-City Collector Albert Ridgell said in the letter. “After 30 days, failure to report and pay taxes and fees owed will result in the revocation of your Occupation License.”

A letter from Ridgell dated April 24, 2013, advised Walker that Aisha’s occupation license was revoked for non-payment of taxes.

“My license has never been revoked or suspended as it was often reported in the media,” Walker wrote in his ethics complaint against Hollingsworth.