Misspent hotel/motel taxes put back where they belong
The Ellis County Press
ITALY – A concerned resident who questioned the city on misspending hotel and motel taxes on street signs prompted Italy officials in putting the funds "back where they belong."
"I think the new signs are just beautiful," said Mayor Frank Jackson. "We did go ahead and use the hotel tax money at first, but I talked to the city attorneys and they said it wasn’t right..."
Jackson, when approached Monday night after the city’s regular council meeting, said the hotel/motel taxes were relocated.
Karen Mathiowetz, who posted an article on the popular Italy-based NeoTrib.com Web site, first brought the issue to light.
"For as long as I can remember, I have tried to do the right thing no matter whether it was popular or not," Mathiowetz said.
"A few months ago I asked someone that I respect what I should do when I discovered things that were not right. They did not tell me what to do, but did tell me that doing the right thing is not always easy."
The City of Italy is allowed to collect a six-percent hotel occupancy tax that is administered by the Texas Comptroller’s office.
The use of the tax is very specific. The comptroller’s Web site states the funds can only be used to promote tourism and hotel usage; the new street signs on Main were purchased with the money at first.
"I don’t believe this was intentional," Mathiowetz stated on the Web site. "I think that the law was not followed because the law was not researched before the money was spent.
"But, on the other hand, ignorance of the law in this day and time is no excuse or defense for spending the money improperly. Someone in City Hall should have researched the issue to keep us legal.
"This is not the ‘good ol’ boy system’ where the mayor and council can do whatever they want and answer to no one," she said.
"They must follow the law like anyone else. As a citizen, I want the City of Italy to obey all laws. I want them to be more careful how they spend our tax dollars. I just want what is right."