This week, the campaign of Atlanta mayoral candidate Mary Norwood pointed journalists toward documents that it said showed that rival Kasim Reed has owed tens of thousands in late property taxes to the city and the county.
One media outlet ran a story. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did not.
My AJC colleague Cameron McWhirter and other reporters spent weeks vetting the major mayoral candidates this summer.
In the course of that reporting, McWhirter checked Fulton County tax records. Reed met with him and provided detailed documentation about his financial holdings, real estate and tax payments. Reed owed no back taxes at the time of the meeting and owes none now.
Much of the Reed’s tax “problem” cited by the Norwood campaign is $27,240.04 for city and county taxes that aren’t due yet. They aren’t a problem unless he doesn’t pay them.
By the same standard, Mary Norwood and her husband owe $10,329.91 in city and county taxes this year for their property at 3371 Habersham Road.
(Norwood campaign manager Roman Levit said the information on Reed’s 2009 obligations were included only for context.)
The total that Reed has been penalized for late tax payments on three pieces of property he owns is $837.41 – for three late payments in the last six years. (He has not owned all the properties in that time).
For a property at Overlook Court, he owed $605.16 in penalties and fees to the city and $208.33 in fees to the county in 2008. Reed has a letter from his bank stating that they erred in not paying the taxes that Reed had paid to them in escrow. The taxes subsequently were paid.
For a 15th Street condominium he has owned since 2003, he owed the city $14.74 in penalties in 2007. He owed the city $6.86 in penalties and the county $2.50 in penalties in 2006. He paid these penalties.
Kasim Reed is a stakeholder in a real estate holding company, Cascade Investors LLC. Cascade Investors owns a warehouse on Fairburn Road. The corporation is registered to Reed’s address and incorporated with Reed as the agent.
Reed said when the company was first formed, he was a managing member. Now he is not, and has a 20 percent stake in the company.
Reed says that as a minority holder, he is not responsible for payment of those taxes. The corporation was penalized $1,480.56 in 2008 and $1,598.96 in 2009 for late payments for the warehouse. In 2008, Cascade Investors paid $518.59 in penalties for late taxes paid on an empty lot the firm had purchased that same year.
Reed provided documentation that he sent in his portion of the tax bills on time.
Levit, campaign manager for Norwood, insisted that the fines show a pattern. “Every year from 2002 he’s been late. It’s not a one-time accidental thing,” Levit said.
Norwood herself was quoted in this prepared statement:
“For over a year I have been talking about bringing fiscal accountability and basic accounting skills back to city government. Just as I have pledged to hold everyone connected with city government accountable, it is equally important that those of us who hold public office be accountable.
For me, paying your taxes in a timely fashion is something each citizen must do. The public has every right to know which elected officials pay their taxes on time — and which ones do not. Let there be no doubt, my husband and I pay our taxes on time every year.”
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