UPDATE, 12/7: This post has been revised to include updated information regarding the tax bill for Commissioner Joe Bowser. Although Bowser's tax bill was due Dec. 1, it wasn't technically delinquent because he had 30 days to pay it, according to a supervisor with Durham's tax office.
Though most of their meeting was overshadowed by the standoff among commissioners over how to elect board leaders for the coming year, another political play transpired when the board talked about its ethics code Monday.
In addition to some updates initiated by the general assembly, Commissioner Becky Heron said the document should include a clause about the on-time payment of taxes.
"If it's not part of the policy, it ought to be," Heron said. "I think we need to emphasize that. How can we sit here as a model for others and require it of all our boards and commissions if we don't [pay our own taxes]?"
Heron didn't spell out any specific violations, and no other commissioners commented on her statement. But Heron's comment appeared to be a jab at Commissioner Brenda Howerton who had overdue taxes as of Monday. Howerton was a month overdue on a property tax bill for her 2011 Toyota Camry, the records showed. She owed $278.
Commissioner Joe Bowser also had an outstanding $73 property tax bill for his Dodge pickup truck. The billing due date was Dec. 1, but the payment wasn't technically late, a tax clerk said, because the owner has 30 days to pay the bill.
During a side conversation toward the end of the meeting, Howerton and Heron chatted about the matter. Heron acknowledged to Howerton she brought up the issue, but didn't publicly name any commissioner as the offender. She told Howerton that someone had called and brought her attention to the overdue bill.
"It's not a problem, Becky," Howerton said. "It's not a problem."
When asked about the late payment, Howerton wouldn't explain the lapse.
"They are paid," she said of the property taxes.
As of Monday evening, the Durham County website still displayed a red mark next to Howerton's bill indicating the bill was unpaid. However, a clerk in the tax assessor's office confirmed Monday afternoon that Howerton had paid the bill at 1 p.m.—about two hours after Heron's comments about the ethics code, while the commissioners had recessed for lunch.
Bowser's bill was also paid Monday during the lunch break, records showed.