Unpaid taxes might derail incumbent's City Council campaign - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Unpaid taxes might derail incumbent's City Council campaign

Barbara Swearengen Holt-Ware Barbara Swearengen Holt-Ware

Memphis City Council candidate Barbara Swearengen Holt-Ware could get kicked off the ballot because of unpaid property taxes.

One of Holt-Ware's opponents, candidate Veronica Castillo, had a letter hand-delivered to the Election Commission Wednesday asking commissioners to deem the incumbent ineligible to run for re-election.

"I'm asking the Election Commission to investigate this issue, to disqualify her from this election, and to remove her name from the ballot," Castillo said.

The Memphis City Charter says no person shall be eligible "who is in arrears for taxes."

Wednesday, Debra Gates of the Shelby County Trustee's Office verified Holt-Ware is behind on her property taxes.

"At the end of February, it should have been paid, and then starting in March of 2007, we started making efforts to notify all tax payers," Gates said.

Shelby County records show Holt-Ware is late on 2006 county property taxes for one of her three properties for a sum of more than $500.  City records also show she is late on that same property, in an amount just under $500.

Castillo worried about preferential treatment for Holt-Ware.  "The thing I'm really concerned with is the special treatment that is awarded to elected officials, which we've seen in the past with Tennessee Waltz," she said.

Holt-Ware declined an on camera interview, but said as far as she knows, she all her taxes have been paid.

The Shelby County Election Commission would need an opinion from the Memphis city attorney on how to handle the situation.  The city attorney said he was unsure if the claim would hold up, since the clause in the charter that addresses late taxes is an "editors note," and not a code.

The city attorney's office should issue an opinion later this week.


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