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Developer of Maryland housing office in Prince George’s has financial troubles

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A developer who stands to gain millions by building headquarters for the state Department of Housing and Community Development in Prince George’s County owes Maryland more than $124,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest, according to state records.

The Maryland comptroller’s office has filed several tax liens over the past seven years against Carl S. Williams for failing to pay state withholding taxes for employees at one of his companies. As of Dec. 28, the bill remained unpaid, state officials said.

The liens stem from nonpayment of withholding taxes for King’s Kids Child Development, a division of a company where Williams was in charge.

“When the corporate entity does not pay, we can go after the managing member,” said Sharonne Bonardi, the director of the compliance division within the comptroller’s office. “That’s why he was assessed personally for the tax debt.”

Barb Clapp, a spokeswoman for the developer, said Williams filed an appeal over the back taxes Sept. 14, which the state confirmed this week. On Sept. 19, the state announced that it had selected him to develop the new headquarters near the New Carrollton transit hub.

Williams is a principal of Grand Central Development, and he hopes to lead a team that will build the New Carrollton mixed-use development. The project, known as Metroview, would house the first state agency with headquarters in Prince George’s.

Clapp said Williams took over as executive director of St. Paul Development Corp., a nonprofit group that builds affordable housing in Prince George’s and owns the day-care center, in 2006. Some of the company’s tax troubles predate his appointment as executive director, she said. Clapp also said some payments were applied to taxes owed by St. Paul Development.

“He didn’t know about some of it,” Clapp said. “When he learned, he filed an appeal.”

This week, state officials said the balance includes $67,329.26 in taxes, $46,897.781 in interest and penalties of $9,895.60. The state would not provide a breakdown of when the taxes were incurred.

The Carl Williams Group

But the outstanding bill is just one of the financial problems that companies headed by Williams have faced.

The charter of the Carl Williams Group, a development company founded in 2005 in Prince George’s, was revoked by the State Department of Assessments and Taxation two years ago for failing to file a 2008 property tax return with the state. Clapp said the company did not file a property tax return with the state because it did not own any personal property. As a result, the company’s charter was revoked. Clapp said the Carl Williams Group is no longer doing business.

The Woodviews at St. Paul Limited Partnership — a division of St. Paul Development, which Williams heads — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008. Williams’s spokeswoman added that he is not personally liable for the bankruptcy of Woodview. The company ran into trouble with county officials, she said.

“We got caught in the pay-to-play game of Jack Johnson, and our necessary county approvals were not approved because we would not pay,” Clapp said.

And the Carl Williams Group was sued by UrbanAmerica, a real estate investment company, over the alleged nonpayment of a loan. Last year, the trial court entered a judgment against the Carl Williams Group for $9 million. Clapp said the loan at issue in the lawsuit stems from a $100 million project in the county that was never built. The Carl Williams Group is appealing, and UrbanAmerica, which sued Williams personally but lost, has also filed an appeal.

Clapp said Williams has shepherded many projects in the county, including the Jericho City senior living project in Landover and the St. Paul Retirement Community at Addison in Capitol Heights. But, she said, many of the financial problems of his companies can be blamed on a sluggish real estate market and the play-to-pay culture in Prince George’s. Metroview, a mixed-use project that still needs financing, would be Williams’s largest project.

The path to revitalization

As part of a push to promote transit-oriented development, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) announced last year the intention to move the housing agency from Anne Arundel County to a site near a Metro station in Prince George’s. O’Malley announced the selection of Grand Central Development and the location with much fanfare during a news conference in front of the New Carrollton Metro station in September.

The state Board of Public Works still has to decide whether Grand Central Development should be awarded the 15-year, $40 million lease for the agency’s move to New Carrollton.

According to state officials, the panel was supposed to consider the project before the end of the year, but the lease never made it onto the board’s agenda. Grand Central was one of 16 bidders for the project.

Michael A. Gaines Sr., the assistant secretary of real estate for the Department of General Services, who has handled the requests for proposals for the relocation, did not return repeated calls to his office.

Williams, a developer and executive director of St. Paul Development, spoke briefly about the DHCD development’s prime location, just 12 minutes by rail from the Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, and his plans to build 442 apartment units, 22 percent of which will be affordable housing.

‘Disconnect’ over tax liens

Williams will be joined by Tim Munshell of Montgomery County in developing Metroview, which includes 30,000 square feet of retail space, four floors of office space for DHCD and office space for the city of New Carrollton. The pair is also working on another multimillion-dollar, mixed-use project in Baltimore County.

Munshell did not return a phone call or a message left with his company spokesman.

The announcement of the development selection for DHCD came before Grand Central Development underwent a tax clearance review by the comptroller’s office.

The compliance division within the comptroller’s office was unaware of the liens filed against Williams until they were brought to its attention by The Washington Post on Dec. 20.

Bonardi, the director of that division, said her office searched for days and could not find any liens placed against Williams or any delinquencies against the Carl Williams Group.

Joseph Shapiro, a spokesman for the office, was adamant that no liens were placed against Williams by the comptroller’s office.

It was not until documents from the Prince George’s Circuit Court were provided to the state by The Washington Post that officials located the liens.

Bonardi said there was a “disconnect” because the liens were under the federal identification number of the King’s Kids Development Center and Williams’s Social Security number.

Sylvia Brokos, the manager of business tax collections within the comptroller’s office, said Williams’s back taxes would not necessarily disqualify him from a contract.

She said all companies seeking state contracts must pass a tax clearance process that includes a search for back taxes and a review to make sure the company’s charter is in good standing.

In Williams’s case, only Grand Central Development, which was formed in November 2010, would go through that process.

“We do not look beyond that to the principal, not unless they are the sole proprietor,” Brokos said.

Staff researcher Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.

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