- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Internal Revenue Service has filed a lien against D.C. Council member Marion Barry, the former longtime mayor of the nation’s capital, who has been dogged for years by tax troubles.

Federal tax collectors filed notice of the lien with the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue Recorder of Deeds last month, citing more than $15,000 in unpaid income taxes from 2005 through 2008.

The IRS declined to comment on the filing, which was prepared in January but publicly filed with the District on Feb. 22. The document states, “We have made a demand for payment of this liability, but it remains unpaid.”

The previously undisclosed filing comes less than a year after U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson extended by two years Mr. Barry’s probation following his 2005 guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of not filing a tax return.

That case involved unpaid taxes on more than $500,000 in income from 1999 to 2004, and federal prosecutors last year said Mr. Barry violated his probation by failing to file his 2007 taxes on time. The judge ordered the extension but did not comply with prosecutors’ requests that the former mayor be kept under electronic surveillance and home confinement.

Frederick D. Cooke Jr., Mr. Barry’s attorney, said Wednesday that his client’s tax debt is “old news.” He said he did not know why the IRS had filed the lien notice but called the move routine.

Mr. Barry’s office declined to comment, and a spokeswoman referred to the tax issue as a personal matter.

The IRS would not confirm whether Mr. Barry has been closing out his tax debts. A spokesman said the IRS, by law, cannot discuss individual tax cases.

Mr. Cooke said Mr. Barry is paying off his debt. “We already are in a payment plan,” he said.

Richard Lehman, a former senior attorney at the IRS who is in private practice in Florida, said Mr. Barry, like any other taxpayer facing a lien, could contest the lien or try to work out a deal to pay the IRS.

“What they do is work really hard to work out a deal,” Mr. Lehman said of the IRS.

According to court records filed in 2007 in his tax case, Mr. Barry’s paycheck has been garnished because of the unpaid taxes. An affidavit filed by prosecutors in Mr. Barry’s case last year said he still owed more than $200,000 in tax debts incurred over the years, including $6,512 for unpaid taxes for 2007.

The newly filed IRS notice of a federal lien against Mr. Barry lists a $8,679.87 tax debt for 2007. The other debts listed on the notice are $649.43 for 2005, $4,907.15 for 2006 and $1,022.48 for 2008. The lien doesn’t mean the IRS will seize any property or assets, but it does give the IRS a legal claim to Mr. Barry’s property as security for payment.

At the heart of Mr. Barry’s tax case were earnings from 1999 to 2004, when the former mayor was working as a private consultant.

Mr. Barry’s tax troubles receded, and he got embroiled in other controversies in recent months.

Easily re-elected to the Ward 8 council seat in 2008, Mr. Barry was censured by his colleagues on the D.C. Council and stripped of his chairmanship of the council’s Committee on Housing and Workforce Development after a report accused him of steering a contract to a girlfriend and impeding an investigation into the matter.

The report, written by Washington lawyer Robert S. Bennett, who was asked to investigate the matter after details of the contract emerged last summer, also said Mr. Barry benefited personally by asking his then-girlfriend, Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, to use some of the money from the $15,000 contract to repay thousands of dollars that Mr. Barry said he had lent her.

The contract became the focus of attention after Mr. Barry was arrested in July on charges of stalking Ms. Watts-Brighthaupt. The charges later were dropped.

Mr. Barry disputed the report. The council referred its findings to the U.S. attorney’s office, the same office that previously filed the tax charges against Mr. Barry.

Mr. Barry, 74, served four terms as mayor. He served a six-month prison sentence after he was caught smoking crack cocaine in 1990 during his third term as mayor. In 1994, he was re-elected to his fourth term. He won a seat as the Ward 8 representative on the council in 2004.

• Jim McElhatton can be reached at jmcelhatton@washingtontimes.com.

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