Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Nevada Lawmakers Fail to pay taxes

I-Team: 2 Nev. Lawmakers Fail to Pay Taxes, Rack up Thousands in Debt
Posted: Dec 28, 2009 6:05 PM EST
Updated: Dec 28, 2009 7:25 PM EST

I-Team: 2 Nev. Lawmakers Fail to Pay Taxes, Rack up Thousands in Debt

More Las Vegas News More>>More Than 300,000 Visitors Expected in Las Vegas for New YearDeals Being Offered on Dying Car BrandsFreeway and Las Vegas Strip Closures for New Year's EveMetro to Step Up DUI Patrols on New Year's EveNevada Bankruptcy Filings Dip in NovemberRECALL: Tylenol Arthritis Caplets RecallTributePalooza to Rock Fremont Street New Year's EveFree Bus Rides for New Year's HolidayEconomists Expect Nevada Job Market to Remain WeakParraguirre Named NV Chief JusticeLAS VEGAS -- One is a retired schoolteacher. The other deals with real estate. Both are state lawmakers and both were behind thousands of dollars in back taxes and liens.

The I-Team examined the property tax records for every state lawmaker in Clark County. From the public records available online, only two of the politicians were delinquent. Both have a track record of tax problems.

Assemblyman Harvey Munford, a three-term Democrat and former teacher was exposed during an I-Team investigation in May 2008 for missing payments. Recently, he was found to be behind more than $2,100 on his home and horse land near Martin Luther King Boulevard and Washington Avenue. He had not paid his property taxes since September 23, 2008.

"I'm totally taken by surprise," Munford said when questioned about the lapses. He blamed the "oversight" on his wife, claiming he knew nothing about certified mailings sent to his home. "My wife usually takes care of that. She's supposed to pay them," Munford said.

Within an hour of being told about the tax lapses, Munford paid the bill. His tax record is paid and current according to Clark County Treasurer records.

Arberry Unanswered

Morse Arberry joined the Nevada Assembly when a gallon of gas was a little over $1 and movie tickets did not even crack $3.

Since 1985, Arberry has been a popular figure in Carson City during the four-month tour of duty in the legislature. He has commanded the Ways and Means committee first in 1993, and then from 1997 until this year, longer than anyone in state history. That committee decides and debates where tax money should be spent in Nevada.

Morse Arberry, however, chooses not to pay his own taxes.

As with Munford, Arberry was caught missing payments before. In 2008, his property in the Canyon Gate Country Club was behind $31,000 in back taxes until the I-Team started asking questions. Arberry paid off his debt then, but has failed to pay taxes at his Walker Street address since the exact day the first story aired. That property is behind more than $2,000 in property taxes, unpaid since May 2008.

The I-Team also found Arberry has financial problems -- liens and debts at every one of his six Las Vegas properties:

Canyon Springs property: $3,500 in old homeowners' association dues and sewer liens
Gazing Stars property: $227,000 from trustee sale debt
Virginia City Avenue property: $336 in an unpaid sewer lien
Cool River property: nearly $4,500 in old HOA fees
Fred Brown Drive property: $257,000 in house debt and liens
Walker Street property: $2,000 in back taxes, $1,100 in liens
Records indicate Arberry and perhaps financial partners are suing banks in order to stall the debt at Gazing Stars and Fred Brown.

The combined totals listed on the Clark County Recorder and Treasurer listings put Arberry's taxes and debts at more than $496,000.

Arberry refused to publicly comment about the debts and taxes. He was apparently unaware of the depth of the financial problems when questioned about it by the I-Team. He promised to resolve the issue after the New Year holiday.

Andy Matthews with the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a libertarian think tank, said taxpayers and voters should be offended by Munford and Arberry's continued conduct.

"Our elected officials and politicians in some cases feel that they can live and exist above the law," Matthews said. "It's particularly incumbent on those who go to the public and ask for their vote---ask for their trust, to be the stewards of state government, that they, more than anybody, follow the law" he said.

Matthews questioned a double standard for lawmakers, especially in Arberry's case.

"How many citizens are going to look at this and say, ‘well, how can they come after me for not following the law, for not paying my taxes if they're not willing to do it themselves?'" he said.

Arberry is term-limited and will only be a part of interim committees or a special session until November 2010.

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