Rumors have it that State Rep Earl Ehrhart may be under the mistaken impression that it is the Georgia State Legislature that has authority over how Community Improvement Districts (“CIDs”) spend tax dollars.
PV Offers Exhibit A: In today’s Marietta Daily Journal article detailing the money spent by the Cumberland CID and the Town Center CID (both located in Cobb County) on “educating” the public about traffic and the T-SPLOST vote coming-up this July 31st, Rep. Ehrhart stated the following about the half-million dollars being transferred from the CIDs to the organization called “MAVEN:
“That’s something that will have to be looked into next year [via the General Assembly]…I thought they got the message on that. That’s a shame. It’s certainly using tax money to advocate for (an election). I’m hoping they’re not successful in buying it.”
PV Offers A Disagreement via Exhibit B: In actuality, it is NOT the “legislature” at all that governs how a CID spends its tax dollars, but it is the Georgia Constitution that governs what they are allowed to spend their money on.
CIDs only exist under a specific section of the state constitution, Article IX, Section VII. The Legislature did not “create” them, and therefore it has no power to “regulate” them. The CIDs are only allowed to do what the state constitution specifically authorizes them to do by letter of law, and they are allowed to do nothing else beyond those boundaries.
What does the constitution say about how a CID can spend money? Let’s examine that right now:
Article IX, Section VII, Paragraph III, Sub-Paragraph (c)…2nd to the last line at the bottom of Page 80 states as follows: “The law creating or providing for the creation of a community improvement district shall provide that the proceeds of taxes, fees, and assessments levied by the administrative body of the community improvement district shall be used only for the purpose of providing governmental services and facilities which are specially required by the degree of density of development within the community improvement district and not for the purpose of providing those governmental services and facilities provided to the county or municipality as a whole.”
Reading a little bit further down in Paragraph III, there is this additional statement in the Georgia Constitution: “The proceeds of taxes, fees, and assessments so levied, less such fee to cover the costs of collection as may be specified by law , shall be transmitted by the collecting county or municipality to the administrative body of the community improvement district and shall be expended by the administrative body of the community improvement district only for the purposes authorized by this Section.”
In short, Ladies, Gentlemen, Rep Ehrhart, & Tad Leithead, et al…none of this money being spent on “educating the public” by ANY CID is authorized by the Georgia Constitution. NONE. ZERO.
Additionally, MAVEN (which stands for Metro-Atlanta Voter Education Network) is not located anywhere in or near Cobb County (they are located at 250 Williams St., Suite 2332, Atlanta, GA 30303, which is nowhere near Cobb County).
Therefore, these CIDs are giving money to MAVEN, which is an organization that does not build: “…roads, curbs, sidewalks, street lights, devices to control the flow of traffic on streets and roads; Parks or recreational areas or facilities; Storm water and sewage collection and disposal systems; Development, storage, treatment, purification, and distribution of water; Public transportation; or Terminal and dock facilities and parking facilities…” as is expressly specified in Paragraph II of this Section of the Georgia Constitution to be the ONLY items a CID is expressly-authorized to spend money on.
And, here’s just an easy way to understand this without plowing thru the constitutional excerpts provided above: Let’s say PV is completely in error, and that the CIDs are allowed to spend their money on educating or supporting a tax referendum.
So, assuming they are allowed to do this, could they then invest CID tax dollars into…say…a Nevada-based brothel if that brothel purchased billboard space on I-75 whereby 99.99999% of the square footage of the billboard’s advertising area was “Stuck in traffic? Remember you have a choice to change transportation in Metro-Atlanta on July 31st, 2012” and the only thing the brothel had on there in tiny print was “Paid for by SuzysHouseofPleasure.com”
Would this be a legal use of CID money? C’mon, lawyers of certain politically-connected law firms in Cobb and Gwinnett County…Defend the CID in this hypothetical situation here. What is stopping a CID from spending their money on ANYTHING like this, if a majority of the CID board voted in favor of doing that? Do tell us. (Or, don’t, since you actually won’t be able to due to the Georgia Constitution.)
PV’s Conclusion: So, what does all this mean? Well, besides the CCID Board acting in violation of the Georgia Constitution, the only way to make them address their illegal acts is to take the Cumberland CID to court…and the proper authority to address the unlawful-unconstitutional-illegal spending of tax dollars by all these CIDs for “educating” on a tax referendum is in the Superior Court Circuit in which each CID is located.
That is the only place anyone will get something accomplished. The Georgia Legislature has no authorization or jurisdiction, but the Superior Court does have jurisdiction over how money is spent by any CID, as the Superior Court is the proper venue to challenge any state, county, or local governmental entity for violations of their existence via the Georgia Constitution.
This is why the CIDs (any and all CIDs located all over the metro-Atlanta area should be taken to court if they are using tax money in connection with the TIA/T-SPLOST vote) need to be sued in their local Superior Court circuit for unconstitutional use of tax dollars. Ignore what CID lawyers claim. They are wrong. Beat them in court.