My Page One story in today’s Floyd Press tells of a a consistent overcharging of customers of Floyd’s Pizza Inn Restaurant, owned and operated by county board of supervisors chairman Case Clinger.
Pizza Inn has been charging customers 10.3 percent sales tax on purchases for at least a year — almost double what was really due. The 10.3 rate is the sales tax rate for establishments located within the town of Floyd, which has a local option sales tax addition for food and beverages, but the sales tax for establishments located in the county is 5.3 percent. Pizza Inn is close to the boundary line between the town and county but is clearly a county business.
The story already had tongues wagging Wednesday morning after Press editor Wanda Combs posted it on the paper’s web site at day before publication in the paper. That practice is normal on stories involving breaking news because the paper operates in a competitive environment where a daily can easily get the jump on a weekly.
Questions from those who talked with me at Blue Ridge Restaurant over breakfast and later at the Floyd Country Store wanted to know how it happened, why it happened and why it went on for more than a year.
Clinger admits the overcharges but says he wasn’t aware of them until it was brought to his attention on Monday of this week. They occurred on computer-controlled cash registers at the front counter of Pizza Inn. The system comes from a company that is no longer in business, he said.
How much money was involved? That question is still open as Clinger reviews his books. It will be thousands of dollars and he proposed Tuesday that the overcharges be given to the town of Floyd as taxes that he did not technically owe but ones that his restaurant accepted in misapplied charges to his customers.
A source close to the town government told me Wednesday night that Clinger’s proposal is not sitting well with some in the town and may be rejected.
Clinger promises a full accounting, explanation and resolution early next week when the internal review and accounting is complete. He says that the practice continued for as long as it did because no one who noticed they were being charged 10.3 percent said anything to him about it.
Some county residents who talked to me Wednesday said they find it hard to believe the problem existed for a year without discovery, especially by a detailed operator like Clinger Others said it could happen in a business where a computer controls such things.
Clinger’s problems brings glee to critics, especially those who have been on the receiving end of his budget knife.
A story like this is more newsworthy than normal because the restaurant is owned by an outspoken and sometimes polarizing public official. It can, and most likely will, cause problems for him politically in the future.
Several ‘old rules” in politics: One simply says “watch your back” and another says “make sure the skeletons in your closet are buried where no one can find them.”
One county businessman walked up to my table at the Floyd Country Store Wednesday afternoon humming the tune of a song that sounded strangely familiar.
Then I realized the song was Willie Nelson’s “a little old-fashioned karma coming down:”
There’s just a little fashioned karma coming down
Just a little old fashioned justice going round
A little bit of sowing and a little bit of reaping
A little bit of laughing and a little bit of weeping
Just a little old fashioned karma coming down
It really ain’t hard to understand
If you’re gonna dance you gotta pay the band
It’s just a little old fashioned karma coming down
Is it karma, justice or just some bad luck? At this point, the answer depends on your point of view and the jury is still out.