Man sues over revenue from cigarette taxes

November 01, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

An Annapolis activist filed suit yesterday alleging that since 1967, the county has wrongfully kept $11.6 million in cigarette tax revenues that it should have been turning over to the city of Annapolis.

Sylvanus B. Jones, a retired U.S. State Department employee, alleges in the suit that the Anne Arundel County Council overstepped its legal authority in the mid-1960s when it repealed state laws requiring the county to turn over a portion of its tobacco tax receipts to the city.

County Attorney Judson P. Garrett said the dispute stems from whether the county had the authority to repeal state laws when it enacted the county charter in 1965.

"As far as I'm concerned, it was enacted by the County Council a long time ago as a legitimate exercise of governmental authority," Mr. Garrett said.

Mr. Jones said he is disputing the County Council's authority to repeal two state laws shortly after the charter took effect in 1965.

A 1945 law required Anne Arundel County to pass along one-seventh of any new state revenues to Annapolis, and a 1961 law said that a 3-cent per pack increase in the state cigarette tax should go to the county, he said.

Mr. Jones, who filed the suit on his own behalf, said the county passed along the cigarette tax receipts due the city for three years but stopped in the mid-1960s after the charter was enacted.

"They tried to repeal a state law over which they had no jurisdiction," Mr. Jones said.

Mr. Jones, who is not a lawyer, said the suit is the result of two years of legal research, much of it with the assistance from the Maryland attorney general's office.

He said he began looking into the matter because of concerns about increasing taxes in Annapolis.

"I'm on a fixed income, and when taxes go up, that irritates me. That's why I got involved," he said.

He said the city is barred from filing the same type of suit because it is a governmental body and because so much time has elapsed since the state laws were repealed.

A private citizen is not subject to such limitations, he said.

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