Greentech Automotive (GTA), the company designed to show Terry McAuliffe's ability to create jobs, has quickly become one of the Democratic nominee's biggest problems.
In December we broke the story that revealed McAuliffe never finished his application with Virginia's Economic Development Partnership to open a plant for the green car company in the commonwealth.
As McAuliffe struggled to explain why he chose to open the plant in Mississippi instead of Virginia, new questions emerged about the deals struck to bring the company to the U.S. and just how much progress was being made in making cars. Last week it was revealed McAuliffe quietly stepped down as the company's chairman in December and did not make that information public.
His campaign has said he resigned in order to focus on running for governor full time.
Even though McAuliffe has left the company, it will be difficult for him to remove himself from the situation. Today we learned of another lingering issue that seems to have more questions than answers.
Greentech Automotive was required to pay a property tax bill to Tunica County, MS, for more the $17,000 on February 1.
As of Monday, that bill had not been paid.
GTA has spent the last several months working with Tunica County officials to determine their tax liability on their Tunica County property, which has currently not been developed. The company is operating a smaller facility in Horn Lake, MS.
I spoke to Tunica County Tax Assessor Norma Anderson on Monday, who confirmed for me that the bill was still deliquent. Anderson, however, said despite the bill being in arrears, she was "looking into the issue" because on that same day it was brought to her attention that GTA's Tunica project may be "tax exempt."
However, on Wednesday, Anderson said they recieved the bill, paid in full, Tuesday morning. This is the full list of the taxes paid:
$16,587 - Tunica County property tax
$8,135.50 - school tax
$7899.75 - county tax
$482.56 - interest for the late payment.
Anderson confirmed there was confusion over what GTA owed and the timeline of when those payments were due. That confusion tracks back to what the company has done and what it needs to do in order to qualify for tax exempt status.
NBC12 has acquired a letter, sent by Tunica County Chamber of Commerce President Lyn Arnold to Greentech's Executive Vice President of Finance Gary Tang, that claims GTA received a 10-year exemption from all property taxes, except school taxes. Arnold says in the letter that the Tunica County Tax Assessor was not notified of the exemption and she was working to correct the problem.
That letter is dated February 8 of this year, seven days after the tax bill was due. On Monday, April 8, exactly three months after the letter was sent, the Tunica County tax assessor seemed confused and unaware of GTA's tax situation and whether it was eligible for tax exempt status.
According to Marianne McInerney, the executive vice president of sales at Greentech, the Tunica Chamber was responsible for helping to facilitate the negotiations over the memorandum of understanding that outlined incentives the company was to receive in exchange for setting up shop there.
The letter is correct in stating that Greentech is not required to pay property taxes on the facility for 10 years. However, that 10 year clock doesn't start until production at the facility begins. Therefore, the county was correct in charging taxes on the current operation, which currently amounts to a small office space, because the assembly lines in Tunica have yet to produce anything.
According to McInerney, the earliest production will start in Tunica will be the end of 2013 or perhaps early 2014.
It is unclear how that timeline matches with the company's expectations for their project. In an interview in January of 2011, McAuliffe told me that he hoped to be selling cars as soon as that summer.
"Our first car, as I say, will roll out on July 4 of this year and we're selling the first 100,000 vehicles for $10,000," he said on January 20, 2011.
The company has produced a limited number of cars, but a far cry from the 100,000 they hope to eventually sell for the $10,000 price tag.
In a phone interview from Holland, McInerney stressed that Greentech never attempted to avoid any tax payments and as soon as they learned that they were deliquent they paid up. She she said the company has an excellent relationship with Tunica County and hopes to be up to full capacity in the very near future.
Republicans are doing their best to keep Greentech front and center in the campaign, much like Democrats are spending quite a bit of time keeping the Star Scientific-Cuccinelli connection alive as well. The Cuccinelli campaign released a slick video attacking McAuliffe's Greentech experiment.
My interview with McAuliffe from 2011 can be seen below: