Mullins fights to waive penalties

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By Damon Lawrence

Brian Mullins and his company Brian Mullins Excavating owe Roane County thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes. His attorney, Mark N. Foster, argued during a court hearing last week that the penalties on the debt should be waived because another company Mullins owns, Siteworx LLC, is suing the county over work done on the new jail. 
Chancellor Frank V. Williams III didn’t agree with Foster’s argument and ruled Mullins must pay the penalties.
“Siteworx is an entity unto itself that has the litigation with Roane County,” Williams said. “While Mr. Mullins is the key man to Siteworx, I can’t equate that for the purpose of paying taxes owed by him personally and by another business he’s got – Brian Mullins Excavating – and I’m not going to.”
The hearing was Mullins’ latest attempt to avoid paying penalties on his delinquent taxes.
Mullins ran for road superintendent in the Aug. 2 election. He sought to have the penalties waived during the final weeks of the campaign, claiming it was appropriate because of his litigation against the county over the jail.
Williams initially ruled in favor of Mullins.
“I agreed with Mr. Mullins that it wasn’t fair because he wasn’t able to pay his taxes because he was involved in litigation with Roane County, which was withholding payment on the contract,” Williams said. “That would have been money he would have then been able to use to pay his taxes, so I started out by granting his motion.”
Roane County Back-Tax Attorney Dick Evans appealed, and the chancellor reversed his initial decision and ruled Mullins had to pay the penalties.
“Mr. Evans files a motion and points out the fact that it’s Mr. Mullins personally and another entity (Brian Mullins Excavating) that owed the taxes and it’s another separate corporation (Siteworx) that’s got the litigation with Roane County,” Williams said.
Foster said Roane County is the reason Mullins can’t pay his taxes.
“If Siteworx had been paid then Brian Mullins would have been able to pay his taxes,” Foster said.
Williams didn’t buy the argument that Mullins, Brian Mullins Excavating and Siteworx were one in the same.
“If you treat corporations as a person then we’re dealing with different people,” Williams said. “It’s Mr. Mullins that owes the taxes, but it’s Siteworx that has the litigation with Roane County.”  
Evans represented the county at the hearing. He handed Williams a transcript in which Williams admitted that his initial ruling finding in favor of Mullins was a mistake.
“I was clearly equating Mr. Mullins with Siteworx, and that’s why I did it,” Williams said, reading from the transcript. “I thought if they were trying to collect from Mr. Mullins and Mullins was Siteworx and Siteworx was having money withheld from them by Roane County because of a lawsuit, then that’s good reason not to have to pay the penalty and interest. I made a mistake.”
Mullins owes the county approximately $80,000 because of the unpaid taxes, according to Foster. 
“The taxes, I think, are in the principal amount of something like $60,000 and there’s about $20,000 in late fees and fines,” he said.
Mullins finished last in the road superintendent race behind Jim Beason and winner Dennis Ferguson.