D.C. delegate candidate Eleanor Holmes Norton asked the District's tax collection agency yesterday for copies of any official records stemming from her failure to file local income taxes for the past seven years, her campaign manager said.
Donna Brazile, the campaign manager, said Norton accountant Ralph Bazilio filed the request to "expedite" an end to the political controversy over Norton's failure to file, which was disclosed last month less than a week before she captured the Democratic Party's nomination for the delegate's post.
However, Harold L. Thomas, director of the D.C. Department of Finance and Revenue, said in a brief statement that the agency was "contacted for the first time" on Norton's behalf yesterday to "learn the procedures for requesting" the record of her and her husband's District tax history.
Before yesterday, Norton aides had said repeatedly that she was having difficulty acquiring from the D.C. government a full account of its past dealings with her and her husband on tax matters. Questions have been raised about how the Nortons, who failed to file D.C. income taxes from 1983 to 1989, could have left the taxes unpaid. Since their tax difficulties were first revealed on the eve of last month's Democratic primary, the Nortons have written checks for $89,000 to pay off back taxes, penalties and interest.
The Nortons have declined to make public any of their tax returns or to disclose what, if any, exchanges they had prior to September with D.C. authorities about their taxes.
Brazile said there had been "previous contact and communication" between Norton's accountant and a middle-level supervisor in Thomas's department, particularly as Norton, a Georgetown University law professor and former Carter administration official, attempted to reconstruct her tax history before paying the back taxes and penalties.
"There has been prior discussion with the Department of Finance and Revenue over the past several weeks," Brazile said. "There's no way Mrs. Norton could have put together her records and filed those taxes without such contact."
Linda Grant, a spokeswoman for Thomas's department, declined to say why the department issued the statement. "The statement stands on its own," she said.
A Washington Post editorial yesterday questioned whether the Department of Finance and Revenue had, as Norton's campaign indicated, been slow to provide the records.
Grant added that she was uncertain whether the agency previously had held informal discussions with the Nortons or Bazilio about the Norton tax case.
Norton's husband, Edward, is a lawyer and served as chairman of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics during part of the time the couple failed to file their taxes.
Numerous questions about the Nortons' tax case have lingered over the campaign, including what action, if any, was taken by the D.C. government against the couple.
A Norton aide said that the candidate's request for her tax history was done in part to obtain copies of any official notices that warned the family of its tax delinquency.
One document that surfaced in the case is a copy of a lien the District filed against the Nortons in 1989 to obtain back taxes owed from 1982 -- an action that typically is taken only after the city sends several late notices to a taxpayer.
Citywide elections are Nov. 6. Norton is one of five candidates for the delegate's seat, which pays $125,000 annually.