LAS VEGAS (AP) - A Las Vegas assemblywoman and head of the taxation committee broke her weeklong silence about dozens of tax liens filed against her and her companies, saying an unnamed employee who stole from her and systematically deceived her accountant was at the root of the problem.
Taxation Committee Chairwoman Michele Fiore, a sophomore Republican lawmaker and Assembly majority leader, told conservative radio host Alan Stock on Tuesday that she has addressed the issue. She also argued that her experience working with the IRS though the resolution process is a reason she should retain her leadership on the tax committee.
“I am 100 percent in compliance with IRS - period,” Fiore said on the show. “As a small-business woman, I had a bookkeeper whom I trusted with my tax filings and my tax obligations. Unfortunately, it came to my attention that mistakes were made. Once we learned what was really going on, my accountant, the IRS and I came up with a fair and workable solution and a payment plan. I took full responsibility and have been in compliance ever since.”
Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston first reported last week that Fiore and her businesses, Always There Personal Care of Nevada and Always There 4 You, faced roughly $1 million in liens involving unpaid employee payroll taxes.
Outstanding liens against the two corporations the lawmaker owns with her mother total more than $729,000, and 11 pending IRS liens against Fiore total more than $332,000, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Fiore said she owed about $200,000, but has been paying down the balance and now owes about $96,000. IRS officials said they can’t comment on specific cases, and payoff amounts are not publicly disclosed.
Fiore said she learned of some of the liens in the middle of the 2013 legislative session. An employee had been stealing from her and forwarding fabricated financial reports to her accountant, she said. Any IRS notices of liens also went to the employee and not directly to her, making it difficult to detect the problem, Fiore said.
Fiore did not say specifically what, if any charges, she is pursuing against the employee, but said “there will be consequences.”
Fiore said some of the liens reported by Ralston are from a separate 2003 case stemming from a time when her ex-husband was her accountant. She said she has addressed those issues and has a part-time employee helping to remove those old liens from the record.
She said she fired her entire staff, including her children, after the incident, and acknowledged she wasn’t paying close enough attention to her financial records.
“My trust level was so high because I was so consumed - that was my mistake,” Fiore said.
Fiore and taxation committee vice chairwoman Victoria Seaman also addressed tumult among Assembly Republicans, who took control of the lower house in November for the first time in decades.
Both women were removed from the taxation committee last week, but reinstated hours later. Fiore described the move last week as a war on women, but in the Tuesday interview, Seaman suggested that the incident was indicative of a war on fiscal conservatives.
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