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Wilder Accused of Misusing Tax Rolls for Political Gain 

When the city finally found the money to fund tax relief for seniors and disabled city residents, Mayor L. Douglas Wilder quickly shot off a July 24 letter to everyone who had applied for the program. The mayor had come to the rescue.

"I am invoking the authority vested in me as the Mayor of Richmond to put an end to any further delays and grant the tax relief you deserve," Wilder wrote.

So why would City Council want to scold him for it?

Last Monday, Councilwoman Kathy Graziano proposed a resolution officially censuring the mayor's administration. Because the letters went out only to those who tried to enroll in the program, she contends, Wilder misused citizens' personal and financial data collected by the city for political purposes.

In the months-long dispute, City Council and the mayor's office blamed each other for the lack of funding for senior real-estate tax relief -- without it, many seniors on fixed incomes can't afford to live in the city as assessments and tax bills skyrocket.

"We had asked for some specific information [on the program while it was being considered] and we were told that it was confidential," Graziano says. "So if it's confidential information to council-elected officials, I would think it's confidential to any elected official."

A previous letter dated July 11 and signed by the mayor encouraged citizens to contact their council member, a move Graziano saw as another case of the administration using confidential tax records for flat-out political advocacy.

She says if confidential information is needed to contact citizens, it should come from a city employee, not a politician.

The mayor's spokesman, Linwood Norman, says "there's no response necessary" in the matter. Although he was not initially aware of the proposal, Councilman Marty Jewell says he also isn't supporting Graziano's resolution.

"It's more back and forth with the mayor, unnecessarily," Jewell says. S



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