o Previously: Anti-government activist David Darby does not acknowledge the government’s authority to levy taxes. Since 2009, he has not paid property taxes to Clark County.
o What’s new: After more than a year of legal wrangling, a Clark County Superior Court judge said the county had the authority to sell Darby’s property at auction, scheduled for Sept. 16.
o What’s next: Darby said he would not vacate his property when the county sells it. He plans to appeal the court decision granting the sale in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.
Clark County will auction property belonging to anti-government activist David Darby later this month, potentially capping a multiyear dispute arising over more than $20,000 in unpaid property taxes and fines.
o Previously: Anti-government activist David Darby does not acknowledge the government's authority to levy taxes. Since 2009, he has not paid property taxes to Clark County.
o What's new: After more than a year of legal wrangling, a Clark County Superior Court judge said the county had the authority to sell Darby's property at auction, scheduled for Sept. 16.
o What's next: Darby said he would not vacate his property when the county sells it. He plans to appeal the court decision granting the sale in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.
But Darby, who describes himself as a “sovereign citizen” who doesn’t recognize the county’s authority, said he won’t go willingly. And whoever buys the property, officials say, will be responsible for getting Darby to leave.
“We’ll have to see what happens,” Darby said. “I don’t plan on leaving. I don’t know what they’re going to try. … They know I am very serious about this. All I want is my constitutional rights protected, like every other citizen in Washington.”
In August, a Clark County Superior Court judge authorized the county to move on a foreclosure auction on Darby’s Amboy property, a 4.7-acre parcel where Darby’s house, a raised mobile home resting on cinder blocks, is located.
The minimum bid for the property, which has a total taxable value of $154,712, will be $22,823, or roughly the amount that Darby owes in back taxes. The auction will begin at 8 a.m. Sept. 16 and conclude at 11 a.m. the same day.
Darby, a onetime leader of the local militia, hasn’t paid property taxes since 2009. He began referring to himself as a sovereign citizen in 2008 and, under that designation, said he’s exempt from paying taxes.
The FBI considers the sovereign citizen movement to be an extremist group linked to acts of violence and fraud, although Darby disputes those claims, saying the government only highlights the “fringe” elements of the movement.
“The only way to be sovereign is to break the contract (with the government),” Darby said. “But we’re not going to attack anybody.”
Sovereign citizens, as a group, generally believe that federal, state and local governments operate illegally and therefore they are not obligated to pay taxes to those entities.
This hasn’t been Darby’s first run-in with the county. In the 1990s, as a member of the local militia, he was a proponent of carving out a chunk of north Clark County to create a new government entity dubbed River County.
More recently, Darby ran unsuccessfully for Clark County freeholder, hoping to be one of the 15-member elected board tasked with writing a new home rule charter.
Once the auction is done, the county plans to walk away from the dispute, said county Treasurer Doug Lasher.
He said whoever buys the property will be responsible for removing Darby, if he refuses to leave. The sheriff’s office would not immediately intervene.
“Those are circumstances between the person who purchases the property at auction and the old owner,” Lasher said.
The county would only remove Darby by force with a court order, said Sgt. Fred Neiman, a spokesman for the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.
Darby said he plans to pursue legal remedies in U.S. District Court.
That’s expected, Lasher said, adding that he believes Darby wants to prolong legal proceedings.
In 2012, Darby filed a criminal complaint against the county in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, arguing in part that the “government cannot take both liberty and property from a citizen without imposing civil death against the citizen.”
Darby disputes the validity of the state constitution, approved by President Benjamin Harrison in 1889, arguing that the true state constitution was ratified by voters in 1878. Congress never adopted that document, however, which included provisions prohibiting property taxes and other liens on property.
He also says he has a land patent for his property, acquired through a complicated process that gives him sole controlling rights to his property. His house is not hooked to a sewer line, Darby said, and he refuses other government-provided services, such as fire protection.
“Anyone who buys my land has a big problem because I have a lawful title to my land,” he said.