By Michael Slother - email
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - After we told you about Councilman Victor Hernandez' tax issues, additional questions came to KCBD about other elected officials' taxes.
We started our search using the Lubbock Central Appraisal District's website. We searched more than 30 people who were voted into office. That includes state district judges, county commissioners, and school board members.
We found 2 new names that are behind on taxes, according to LCAD records. In the course of our investigation, we also found a flaw in the appraisal district's website, a flaw that made it look like several other officials were also behind.
The first name on our list might be familiar. Lubbock school board trustee Chris Comer. We reported Comer not paying property taxes last May. Comer said his check bounced when he tried to pay last year; now he owes from 2009 and 2010. He sent us a statement: "With regret, I find myself in the same situation as last year- being late with my homestead property taxes. I am ashamed…"
Comer went on to say he was kept out of working for a bank for a year as a result of a contract with his previous employer. Now he's working, and provided us with loan documents and a payment plan for paying his taxes on a monthly basis. Currently, nothing in LISD policy prohibits a board member from serving with delinquent taxes.
Also on the list, State District Judge Jim Bob Darnell. According to LCAD records, Darnell still owes more than $2,000 from 2009. His 2010 taxes also appear unpaid, but Cindy Lowery with LCAD says they're not finished posting payments from 2010. "It typically takes the first 2 weeks of February to post all the January 31st payments," she said.
Lowery says Darnell has been on a payment plan. Records indicate he did make a partial payment on his 2009 taxes January 5th, 2011. Penalty and interest fees were attached his 2009 and 2010 taxes.
We asked Lowery, "Does Judge Jim Bob Darnell have delinquent taxes?" Lowery replied, "yes.'
Wednesday, the LCAD website showed 'date paid' for each property owner. That made it appear some other leaders had late payments. ‘Date paid' was changed to 'date posted' Thursday morning. Lowery says 'date posted' reflects when payments were entered into the computer, not when they were received.
LCAD also added 'January mail payments still being posted' to the top of their page. Lubbock County Commissioner Patti Jones paid her taxes on time, but before LCAD changed their website on Thursday, it appeared she hadn't. We saw the postmark date on her taxes, she sent in her payment on January 27th. "I'm pleased now that this wording has been changed because it gave people the wrong impression that they were paying taxes delinquent when in essence they weren't," Jones said.
We reached out to Judge Darnell for a comment. He hasn't returned our messages.
A full copy of Chris Comer's statement is available here.
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