REPORT: National Slavery Museum charged ‘grossly inflated’ taxes

Posted at 12:32 AM, Mar 08, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-08 00:35:33-05

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (WTVR) - Paul Goldman, a former aide to Virginia Governor Doug Wilder, said he has uncovered new information about his former boss' planned  National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg.

"When you look at the facts of this case, he's being screwed," Goldman said. "The assessor at the time didn't know a significant fact, which is that this is a deed restricted property."

Goldman, a lawyer who is taking over Wilder's case, has filed court documents in a Fredericksburg Circuit Court asking a judge to delay the museum's case for 90 days.

Goldman said the $340,000 in back taxes Wilder owes on the undeveloped property are a major issue.

That's because when the City of Fredericksburg appraised the 38-acre property in January, it determined the land value had dropped from $7.6 million to $1.7 million, according to Goldman.

In fact, he said the value dropped because the land was gifted to the National Slavery Museum to be used for cultural or educational purposes -- and is not considered prime real estate.

Goldman pointed out that the City of Fredericksburg assessed the property for $7.6 million in 2008 -- and has been charging Wilder property taxes on that amount for five years.

Goldman argued that the city's tax assessment is grossly inflated.

"When you start doing the numbers, he doesn't owe $340,000... It's way, way less,” Goldman said.

Additionally, Goldman said he still has faith Wilder's museum will eventually be built.

However, Jeff Scharff, one of the attorneys representing Fredericksburg, said the city still plans to move forward with the sale of National Slavery Museum land.

A judge will decide Monday whether or not to continue this case for 90 days -- or auction off the property.

Meanwhile, Richmond's Slave Trail Commission organizers said their project is moving forward. They've established a separate, non-profit foundation called the National Slavery Foundation, in interest of raising funding for the project.

“We just celebrated the fact that we’ve become a foundation now,” Del. Delores McQuinn (D - Richmond) said. "We've received the information back from the IRS that officially makes us a foundation in a position to raise funds.”

McQuinn said the commission has collected numerous artifacts and books. They group is working with an architectural firm to review drawings for a slavery museum.

McQuinn also said she is not focused on Wilder's project.

"The only thing we can do is focus on what's happening here in Richmond,” she said.  “We're trying to make it an international destination.  We're going to stay focused and we're going to keep moving forward... to make this a reality."