Lynne Nielsen Price

My Voice

About the author

Lynne Nielsen Price, 57, of Enterprise, is a natural resource biologist, botanist and fish squeezer.

My Voice columns reflect the views of the author only. My Voice columns should be 500-700 words. Submissions should include a portrait-type photograph of the author. Authors also should include their full name, age, occupation and relevant organizational memberships. We edit submissions for brevity, grammar, taste and legal reasons. We reject those published elsewhere. Send columns to La Grande Observer, 1406 5th St., La Grande, Ore., 97850, fax them to 541-963-7804 or email them to acutler@lagrandeobserver.com.

I n the spring of 2014, I started looking into becoming an Airbnb.com host in Wallowa County. I called Airbnb and got clear information about requirements and insurance coverage/liability and was informed that Airbnb assesses, collects and remits to the State of Oregon the required Transient Lodging Tax on my behalf. That’s easy and straightforward.

I then went into the county treasurer’s office and spoke to the clerks, asking questions about becoming an Airbnb host and what was required. The clerks were unclear. They did not mention the Transient Lodging Tax Ordinance for the county. They did not give me a packet of documents that should have included a copy of the ordinance, a registration form to be filled out and submitted in order to receive and display a Certificate of Authority plus quarter tax worksheets to be used and filled out when remitting the required tax. I left their office with the understanding that there were no tax responsibilities for Airbnb hosts, obviously, as it was never mentioned.

After doing this research I registered with Airbnb and became a host in May with my first guests arriving in June. I set my rental rates accordingly and conducted a fun and positive business. I enjoy being a small part of the tourism industry that supports many people here in Wallowa County. My rating is great, and I like meeting new people and helping them enjoy this beautiful area that I call home.

These details, this history, these facts I shared Oct. 23 with the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners when I appealed for the dismissal of penalties and fees incurred for lack of Transient Lodging Tax payment to the county. I pointed out that a person cannot be “in compliance” with a local law if those in charge of disseminating the required details, information and documents do not do so, if those in charge are not clear and knowledgeable enough about their own laws and ordinances. This is what happened to me in the spring of 2014. I received no help or information. This is why I filed an appeal (Section 19) with the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners, case #2017-035. Currently, my case is being denied. I am being found guilty of being “non-compliant.” And charged $831.39.

The hearing resulted in a draft document that includes “Finding of Facts” about my case. These facts are skimpy at best and do not reflect the course of events that occurred. I’ve written and shared my objection and requested that missing facts be included, and I have been told by the county’s attorney that the Board of Commissioners do not have to add, update or include this information and that they can, in fact, sign off my appeal as is. I am currently contesting this and have since filed a Petition for Waiver (Section 11.5). The county’s attorney has shared that I cannot submit any new evidence for my Petition and that the Commissioners are going to roll it into the appeal. So I’m here, just trying to stand up for myself and for a true representation of the course of events that have lead up to this point. I’ve been told by the county’s attorney that I can hire a lawyer and take this to circuit court.

How would you feel, being in this situation? Feeling pressed and bullied, given no options, blamed and made an example of? I find that those at fault are not taking responsibility and making me pay for it.

Since the hearing I have done more research and found that at the state level “intermediaries” were amended into the Transient Lodging Tax law the fourth quarter of 2013. Since I cannot receive any information from the treasurer’s office, I assume that Wallowa County was going through an amendment process about the same time, during the spring of 2014 when I went to the clerks for information but there was no clear information to be shared.

We are all in this thing together, this thing called life. Surviving and making a decent living in Wallowa County can be challenging. I’m being helpful and contributing what I can. I’m very responsible and very productive. I tend to have entrepreneurial energy, tending toward being original and a self-thinker.

19074275