Attorney General's Opinion 1984-85 #313



February 12, 1985

The Honorable Dorothy B. Saunders
Treasurer for the City of Franklin

84-85 313

You have asked whether delinquent real estate tax lists may be sent to all law firms in your jurisdiction as requested by the mayor. You explain that each month an updated computer printout of all delinquent real estate taxes in the city is sent to the Southampton County Circuit Court, with a copy being retained in your office. You do not state what purpose would be served by providing the delinquent real estate tax lists to the law firms.

The publication of the names of delinquent taxpayers is specifically excluded from the bar against disclosure of tax information found in § 58.1-3 of the Code of Virginia. Thus, you are not precluded from sending the delinquent real estate tax lists to the law firms in your city by the nondisclosure mandate of § 58.1-2.1 See 81-82 Va. AG 379.

Such mailings to the law firms in your city would however involve the expenditure of public funds. Section 58.1-31412 limits the use of public funds by treasurers to those purposes provided by law. Treasurers have the duty to collect delinquent taxes3 and may incur expenses related to such collection. See Aetna Casualty Co. v. Supervisors, 160 Va. 11, 168 S.E. 617 (1933); 71-72 Va. AG 448.

Based on the foregoing, I am of the opinion that the delinquent real estate tax list could not be sent to all the law firms in your locality at the expense of your office, unless you determine that such expense would aid you in your statutory duty to collect delinquent real estate taxes.4


1. The exclusion language reads, in pertinent part: "Nothing contained in this section shall be construed to prohibit the publication of . . . delinquent lists showing the names of taxpayers who failed to timely pay their taxes . . . ." Section 58.1-3(B).

2. The relevant language of § 58.1-3141 provides: "No treasurer or any other person handling public money shall knowingly apply, disburse or use any part of the public money held by him in any manner or for any purpose other than the manner and purposes provided by law."

3. See Sections 58.1-3919, 58.1-3927 and 58.1-3928. The duties of the treasurer to collect and disburse taxes and public funds are set forth generally in Art. 2, Ch. 31 and Art. 2, Ch. 39 of Title 58.1. City charter provisions are not affected by any provision of Art. 2, Ch. 39 where a conflict exists between the two. In that event, the charter provision prevails. See § 58.1-3148

4. The lists are, however, official records, subject to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, § 2.1-341 et seq. That Act requires you to make the lists available for inspection and copying during regular business hours on the request of any citizen of this State. You may assess reasonable charges for the cost of copying and any search time expended in supplying the records. See § 2.1-342(a); 81-82 Va. AG 379.