Getting one's name in the paper is one of the alleged deserts of public life in Washington, but some of the city's more well-known residents had the less than savory pleasure of finding themselves noted in the rolls of delinquent taxpayers published in the capital's two daily newspapers yesterday.
But many of those contacted yesterday insisted that they had paid their property taxes on time and charged -- in several cases with strong conviction -- that the D.C. government had made a serious mistake.
Among the 5,000 listings in the skinny columns of small type yesterday in the classified sections of The Washington Post and Washington Star were CBS newsman Dan Rather and his wife Jean, Washington Post publisher Donald E. Graham and his wife Mary, and D.C. City Council Chairman Arrington Dixon and his wife Sharon.
"It is absolutely and unequivocally in error," said Sharon Dixon, who was listed along with her husband as being deliquent $1,761.57. "It's been paid. I can recall Arrington dealing with it, I can't fathom how this happened."
City Housing Director Robert Moore, listed as owing $435, said, "As far as I'm concerned I'm not deliquent."
City Recreation Director William H. Rumsey, listed as being $31 behind in taxes, said, "Those taxes were paid and I have the receipt."
Sarah Tapscott, wife of Assistant D.C. Police Chief Marty Tapscott, who owes $47 according to the city, called the listing simply wrong. "It's typical of the workings of the District government and as far as I'm concerned its ridiculous."
Not only city officials were exasperated yesterday upon learning that they were listed in the three pages in the newspapers. A. Knighton Stanley, pastor of People's Congregational Church, and allegedly in tax debt to the city for $178.08, was distressed that the legal notice of tax deliquency said that his and all other listed properties would be sold next month at a tax auction.
"They will not sell our property," Stanley vowed in a voice fit for the pulpit. "I sent them a personal check. The audacity for them to sell my property is a little more than I need."
Post publisher Graham said, "We've owned this house since 1975, and I'm certain I've paid my taxes. It's conceivable there could be some confusion between the bank and the city, but I'll guarantee the city has never been in contact with Mary or me. I'll clear it up Monday morning."
On the electronic side of the media, Jean Rather, declared that $3,981 in taxes for their Georgetown home had been paid. "There is no question in my mind that they were paid. can't imagine what happened. There was absolutely no intention not to pay."
The city officials who assembled the list of alleged tax deliquents for publication said that some names might be listed erroneously.
"They may well be innocent." said Edward Meyers, deputy director of the Department of Finance and Revenue. "Their records may show they payed, and ours may show they didn't. I'm not going to say our records are right. It's simply a matter of two parties getting together and reconciling their records."
Meyers said the city had issued three earlier notices to taxpayers before publishing the list: the first when the 1980 tax year ended in June; the second in late August, and the third in November informing deliquents of the impending tax sale.
The discrepancies, Meyers said, might partly be explained by the fact that the number of employes in the tax unit of his department has been halved as a result of the city's hiring freeze. And, he added, the city is just converting to a new computer to keep better track of tax payments. Even so, Meyers said, the errors generally have been only about 1 percent.
Meyers said that those who are listed and believe they have paid their taxes should contact the Finance and Revenue Department immediately.