Democratic Clerk Candidate Might Owe $38,000 in Taxes

By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 13, 2007

If elected clerk of the Circuit Court in Fairfax County this November, Democratic candidate David H. Miller would be responsible for 180 employees who handle thousands of judicial documents, land and probate records, marriage licenses and weapons permits.

Among them are records showing that Miller owes more than $38,000 in federal income taxes dating to 2001. The documents on file in the county courthouse are tax liens against his home on Forest Drive in Fairfax for 2001, 2002 and 2003. The largest unpaid balance, $16,294, is from 2001. Miller also owes $662 in property taxes on a house in Bethany Beach, Del., according to the Sussex County office of assessment.

Miller, 58, a Washington lawyer and lobbyist, said that he has never received a notice of unpaid taxes and that he did not know of the liens until told by a reporter.

"I'm flabbergasted," he said. "I don't want to sound like a complete ignoramus, but I didn't know anything about it."

Miller said he and his wife have contacted the Internal Revenue Service for a more detailed explanation. He added that he has represented numerous clients before the IRS and that the agency has "made a lot of mistakes."

If the unpaid balance is accurate, he said, "obviously we will resolve it immediately."

IRS spokeswoman Nancy Mathis said the agency is prohibited by law from discussing personal tax information. But she said that, generally, the IRS will send at least three notices to someone with an unpaid bill. Within five days of filing a lien -- a legal claim on a property as security for payment of a tax debt -- the agency sends a notice by registered or certified mail, Mathis said.

The clerk's race is of particular interest to Fairfax Democrats because the post, which comes with an eight-year term, is the only countywide office held by a Republican. Miller, an Army veteran and former staff member for the Senate Banking Committee, is a first-time candidate and is challenging two-term incumbent John T. Frey. Also on the November ballot is independent Joseph P. Oddo.

County Democratic leaders said this week they hoped that Miller moved quickly to resolve the situation.

"I would suspect he would rectify it quickly now that he's learned about it, so it cannot be used as a campaign issue in the fall," said Ginny Peters, Fairfax County Democratic Committee chairman and Miller's former campaign manager, who left the post this spring. She said she had no knowledge of the tax problems.

Miller said he was experiencing no personal financial difficulties. On the economic disclosure form filed with the county, he lists gross income of between $50,000 and $250,000 from his lobbying and law firm, Federal Legislative Associates. His wife, Lynn D. Miller, is vice president of operations for the George C. Marshall Institute, a Washington think tank.

They bought their four-bedroom Fairfax home in July 2000 for $800,000, according to county land records. It is valued at $1.2 million.

During the campaign, Miller has said that real estate agents, mortgage bankers and title underwriters have complained to him about inefficiencies in the operation of the clerk's office. He has promised to bring better customer service and more technology to the job.

Frey said yesterday that he has made numerous improvements, including the streamlining of jury selection and the digitizing of more than 30 million land records.

"We've done a whole host of things here," he said. Asked about Miller's tax situation, Frey said: "Let me just not comment at this time."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company