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Car company started by Terry McAuliffe faced tax delinquency

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Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

A Mississippi car company started by Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe failed to pay more than $16,500 it owed in taxes for two months, claiming confusion about whether the company was tax exempt.

GreenTech Automotive paid its taxes earlier this week, plus nearly $500 in late fees, after The Washington Examiner made an inquiry to officials in Tunica County, Mississippi, about the company's status.

That inquiry led to discussions between company executives and county officials, and an agreement that the taxes would be paid.

In the run up to the governor's race, McAuliffe had frequently touted the electric car company as proof of his business acumen. But GreenTech failed to meet McAuliffe's lofty production and job creation goals in 2012 and the Democrat quietly stepped down as company chairman in November. McAuliffe still owns more than $250,000 in GreenTech stock.

Tunica County Chamber and Economic Development Foundation President and CEO Lyn Arnold had told GreenTech CEO Gary Tang on Feb. 8 that the company did not have to pay local property taxes for 10 years because of a deal that helped lure the company to the Mississippi county, according to a letter obtained by the Examiner.

But on Monday, Tunica County Tax Assessor Norma Anderson said she was unaware of the deal until the Examiner presented her with the letter. She said the county considered GreenTech delinquent.

On Wednesday, Anderson said that because the company's tax perk doesn't kick in until production begins, it must pay 2012 taxes. The company paid the $16,567 it owed Tuesday and Anderson said the county no longer considers the account delinquent.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has ripped McAuliffe in recent days for not disclosing his separation from GreenTech. Revelations that McAuliffe's company at one time owed taxes sparked further criticism from the Republican's campaign.

"Not only did GreenTech fail to pay thousands of dollars in property taxes, it also acknowledged the Tunica location is not producing any cars," spokeswoman Anna Nix said. "What's more, it seems abundantly clear the company only paid its debt after reporters started investigating the matter. Terry McAuliffe has staked his candidacy on his business record, yet it is rife with secrecy and unfilled promises."

A spokesman for the McAuliffe campaign referred questions to GreenTech Automotive. Marianne McInerney, spokeswoman for GreenTech, was traveling and unable to return calls.

Anderson said she was unaware why production at the company hadn't started yet.

"It's been good news and then it's been bad news," Anderson said of GreenTech. "I don't know."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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