Greensboro City Attorney Chuck Watts said he thought the article in the Rhino Times about the Point South Homeowners Association lawsuit gave an unfair representation of the city’s position.
Point South is suing Greensboro because, in 2019, the homeowners association discovered that it had paid for dumpster service on a dumpster it didn’t have from 2007 to 2019 and the amount of the overpayment was $68,000.
Watts objected to the term “clerical error” to describe how the city ended up billing Point South for a dumpster that didn’t exist for 12 years. He said that was not accurate and that the city had not made a mistake.
Watts said that the city had received two orders for dumpster service, one from the homeowners association and one from homeowners management company. As a result, the city billed for each service. Watts said that the city didn’t make a mistake, the homeowners association did.
Watts also said that the city wasn’t refusing to pay back the amount that Point South had overpaid, but had agreed to pay back the amount that it had a legal obligation to pay.
He said that to pay anymore than what the city was legally obligated to pay would be an emolument, and according to the North Carolina Constitution emoluments are illegal. An emolument in laymen’s terms is a gift. Governments in North Carolina are not allowed to give people money except in payment for goods or services.
Watts said that the city legally could not refund any more than the $11,520 that it had already paid because of the statute of limitations and noted that the judge agreed with the city that the statute of limitations did apply. He said, “We are constrained by the emoluments clause.”
Watts said that refunding the full $68,000 overpayment to Point South would be “a payment that had no legal basis.”
Chuck Winfree, the attorney for Point South, said that he had heard the emolument argument from the city but that he didn’t agree that it would apply in this case. Winfree said that returning money to an organization that had been overcharged and had overpaid their bill for services in his opinion did not meet the criteria of an emolument and he couldn’t find any case law to support the city’s position.
Watts also noted that the city did not always draft the Point South account for payment, but had only been drafting the account since 2012. He said from 2007 to 2012 the bill was paid by check.