North Carolina

Rep. Mark Meadows to pay delinquent property tax bills

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 12, 2017, to say that his group wants to delay the traditional August recess until work is accomplished on health care, the debt ceiling and tax reform. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 12, 2017, to say that his group wants to delay the traditional August recess until work is accomplished on health care, the debt ceiling and tax reform. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) AP

Update Aug. 19, 2019: Bertie County tax records show the previously unpaid taxes have been paid.

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows says he is in the process of paying roughly $6,200 in property tax bills on 83 acres of land in rural northeastern North Carolina — bills that have sat unpaid since as far back as 2013.

The land is owned by Sound Investments of WNC, a company formed in 2005 that began listing Meadows as manager in 2007, state incorporation records show. Over the next several years, the company acquired three parcels in Bertie County.

Starting in 2013, Bertie County’s tax office began recording nonpayment of taxes on two of the parcels. The office began recording nonpayment of a third, one-acre parcel, in 2016.

Ben Williamson, a spokesman for Meadows, said in a text message Tuesday that the congressman’s business did not pay the property taxes because he didn’t know about the bills.

“The notifications had actually been sent to an old address in Highlands for Mr. Meadows, so we actually didn’t know about it until your message,” he said. “Believe the payments are being made today.”

The Bertie County tax office listed a post-office box for the company in Highlands, in far western North Carolina. Sound Investments’ annual business filings with the N.C. Secretary of State show that as the mailing address until 2013, when the company listed a P.O. Box in Skyland near Asheville as the mailing address. Two years later, the business filing again listed the Highlands address.

In 2014 and 2016, the secretary of state had sent the company warnings it would dissolve the business if the company didn’t file timely reports. Subsequent business reports beginning in 2017 list the Skyland address.

The combined value of the three properties is $85,415, according to Bertie County tax records.

The Bertie County properties are not listed on Meadows’ annual financial disclosure reports to Congress. Sound Investments is listed, with the report stating the company has assets in the Transylvania County community of Sapphire worth between $250,001 and $500,000. Meadows described the asset as “No income, family home.”

BEHIND OUR REPORTING

Why we wrote this story

The News & Observer learned of Meadows’ tax issues from Michelle Pettigrew, a Democratic activist who lives near San Francisco, and whose work researching political candidates has been cited in The Washington Post. The N&O verified the information and contacted Meadows.

We pursued the story because voters should know whether their elected officials are paying their taxes. That’s particularly true for lawmakers whose jobs include writing the tax policy for North Carolina and the country.



Williamson did not respond to questions about why Meadows’ company acquired the Bertie County properties and why they are not reported on his financial disclosures. If the properties were an investment they would need to be disclosed.

But House ethics committee officials in minor cases typically do little more than require members to update their reports, said Brett Kappel, an attorney in Washington, D.C., who specializes in government ethics law.

“Omitting information from the personal financial disclosure report can be a criminal violation of the Ethics in Government Act, but only if the omission is material and was made knowingly and willfully,” Kappel said.

Meadows’ son, Blake, and daughter, Haley, are listed as members of Sound Investments on the state business filings. Blake Meadows, an attorney in Georgia, declined to comment.

Rep. Meadows is a real estate developer first elected to North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District in 2012. A Republican, Meadows is a high-profile member of Congress and leads its conservative House Freedom Caucus. He is a fierce advocate of President Donald Trump, who is now battling with the Democrat-led House over Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns.

Staff writer Brian Murphy contributed to this report.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) criticized Michael Cohen’s statement where he called Trump a racist. Meadows introduced Lynne Patton a Trump administration official who is African-American to refute Cohen’s statement.

Dan Kane began working for The News & Observer in 1997. He covered local government, higher education and the state legislature before joining the investigative team in 2009.
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