The criminal record referred to in an article in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post was not that of Cornelius C. Pitts, owner of the Pitts Motor Hotel, who has been tentatively awarded a D.C. government contract to provide temporary shelter for homeless families. The Washington Post regrets the error.
The owner of a Northwest Washington hotel who won a $1.3 million city contract to house temporarily homeless families accumulated a $415,000 debt in federal and city taxes between 1969 and 1981, according to D.C. officials.
Both the Internal Revenue Service and the District government have imposed liens on the hotel because the owner, Cornelius Pitts, failed to pay a variety of taxes, including personal property, sales and corporate franchise taxes.
City officials said, however, that Pitts has been dutifully paying off the debt for several years and that the government doesn't consider the existence of the remaining debt a reason to deny him the contract.
Stanley Jackson, chief of the department of finance and revenue's tax collections branch, said the amount of Pitts' debt had been substantially reduced under a schedule of monthly payments to both the city and the federal government over several years.
In response to a question about his overdue federal and city taxes, Pitts said yesterday, "If you're asking me do I intend to do what's right, to pay off my taxes, the answer is yes."
According to department records, Pitts' 1982 personal property and real estate taxes have been paid.
The exact amount of the balance that the 64-year-old businessman owes was not revealed. But Jackson said he expects Pitts' debt to the city to be retired within about six months.
According to a source in the finance and revenue department, Pitts' monthly payments are said to be more than a few thousand dollars.
City officials recently announced plans to temporarily house an estimated 400 homeless families a year in Pitts' 47-room hotel, at 1451 Belmont St. NW. The hotel has been used by drug dealers and was the scene of 17 arrests since April 17, 1981.
Vallie Byrdsong, who must sign the contract for it to take effect as scheduled on July 1, said yesterday that he was not aware of any reason why Pitt's overdue taxes should prohibit him from getting the proposed contract with the Department of Human Services.
"If you owed back taxes," Byrdsong said, "would you expect to be fired from your job? . . . . Whether or not someone has a lien on his property is no criterion for the awarding of a contract."
According to the Superior Court Tax Division, Pitts was charged with failure to file sales and use tax returns covering a four-month period in 1971. Pitts was fined $200.
Department of Human Services officials said that separate bids were turned down from the House of Ruth and the 10th Street Baptist Church before the agency awarded the contract to Pitts.