The tax-related problems of Kansas City Mayor Sly James are worse than initially reported.
It’s embarrassing for the city’s top politician to have failed to pay his personal property taxes by the deadline of Dec. 31, 2014. He did not settle that bill until Feb. 2 of this year.
But Jackson County officials on Thursday confirmed two more late payments by the mayor.
▪ James did not pay his 2013 personal property taxes until Dec. 5, 2014, when they were more than 11 months late.
▪ The mayor did not pay his 2012 personal property taxes until Feb. 7, 2013, when they were more than a month late.
In all three years, James had to pay interest and late fees for his personal property tax bills.
On top of all this, James this year had to pay a $60 “personal property late filing penalty” on his late 2014 taxes because he did not submit a timely personal property declaration for last year, Jackson County officials said Thursday. That’s a form required from all residents, requiring them to tell the county which vehicles they own so the county can properly tax them.
This is a pattern of negligence regarding a basic duty of all Kansas City taxpayers.
It’s made worse by the fact that James, as mayor, should be leading by example with the timely paying of all his taxes — especially given the fact that he’s at the helm of a city spending $1.4 billion each year.
Further, the three late payments included more than $300 for the city of Kansas City budget.
On Wednesday, James had offered a weak excuse for not filing his 2014 taxes on time, which led mayoral candidate Clay Chastain to say he was filing a lawsuit attempting to kick James off the June 23 general election ballot.
“My late payment was due to a misunderstanding related to acquisition of a new vehicle,” the mayor said in a statement. “Several taxes and fees were paid when we registered the vehicle. When I learned that some taxes were not collected at the time of vehicle registration, I promptly paid the amounts due.”
That explanation looks even more tortured now that the public knows James hadn’t paid his 2013 personal property taxes until late in 2014 — which is when he should also have been paying his 2014 taxes, as he filed for re-election.
On Thursday, I asked James’ office for a statement on why the mayor had failed to pay on time his personal property taxes for 2012 and 2013.
Spokesman Michael Grimaldi responded:
“The mayor acknowledges everything you report. As before, when he became aware of the delinquencies, he paid promptly. He does not recall why he was delinquent years ago.”
When I pressed back in an email that James had paid his 2013 taxes just four months ago — or more than 11 months late — Grimaldi responded:
“The mayor checked on the late taxes (Star reporter Lynn Horsley) asked about on April 6. He has no recollection of the reason for delinquency for previous years.”
The mayor’s “no recollection” excuse is dismaying. Paying taxes is one of the requirements of even being eligible to be on the ballot and serve as mayor of Kansas City.
Summed up, I don’t think a court will remove James from office over his failure to pay his 2014 taxes in a timely manner.
I also know for a fact he won’t lose the election if he stays on the ballot and faces challenger Vincent Lee, who beat Chastain for the runner-up spot in the April 7 primary.
However, once again, the fact that James has failed to pay his personal property on taxes for three years running is troubling news.
Yes, it can show he’s human and forgets to pay stuff on time; don’t we all?
Except that it happens routinely to a politician who should know better.
The best thing James can do now is to prepare to pay his 2015 personal property taxes on time, before Dec. 31, 2015, when he presumably will still be serving as mayor.