Three corporations that are spinoffs of Youth Pride Inc., the federally funded black self-help group, owe more than $100,000 in federal and district back taxes, according to government records and tax officials.
The Pride organizations have been one of the city's most serious tax delinquency problems for nearly a decade, the records show.
In two Oct. 3 letters to officers of the three Pride-related corporations the District's Department of Finance and Revenue demanded payment and cited the corporations' failure to file tax returns or pay corporate franchise, employe withholding or personal property taxes.
The finance department letter listed: Pride Environmental Services inc., formed in 1972 to provide the District of Columbia with curbside trash receptacles; Youth Pride Economic Enterprises Inc., formed in 1968 to establish businesses that would provide jobs for trainees emerging from Youth Pride, and P.I. Properties inc., a nonprofit real estate spinoff of Youth Pride.
Each of the groups is or was headed by Mary Treadwell, Mayor Marion Barry's former wife.
"The taxes are self-explanatory. They're a matter of public record. I'm neither the bookkeeper nor the secretary-treasurer of those corporations," Treadwell said in an interview earlier this week.
A year-long investigation by The Washington Post found that officials of P.I. Properties Inc., Mary Treadwell among them, diverted, misappropriated or stole at least $600,000 from the U.S. government and low-income tenants between 1974 and 1978.
"I think it's open season right now," Treadwell said, declining to comment further on the tax liabilities of corrations she founded and directed.
But the Pride groups' tax delinquencies are not new. "They've been delinquent since I've been here and that's since 1967," says William S. Pace, head of the Distict's deliquent collections devisions. "They very seldom file tax returns and when they do file they don't pay then," Pace said. s
Most finance department officials are less willing to talk about the case because of what they say is the political sensitivity of investigating a group headed by the mayor's former wife.
"It's very touchy. I don't want to say anything about it," said finance department auditor Howard W. Harris as he cupped his hands over his ears last week in an inverview.
From government records, finance department files, and interviews with tax officials emerges the picture of the Pride groups' mired finances, poor record keeping, and disregard for federal and District laws requiring the filing and payment of various taxes. Among these:
Youth Pride Economic Enterprises inc. failed to file or pay District property taxes for the last five years, according to District finance records. Those property back taxes now amount to $36,509.62.
A division of that same corportation that managed Buena Vista Apartments in Southeast Washington failed to pay $10,598.21 in 1975 federal withholding taxes and is now subject to a federal tax lien in that amount.
Among other back taxes, P.I. Properties Inc. failed to pay $2,974 in District employe withholding taxes, a debt that was satisfied only after the finance department seized the corporation's bank account and forwarded the matter to the corporation counsel for criminal investigation. The criminal investigation was later dropped.
In the past five years the various Pride groups have been the subject of 21 separate federal and district tax liens amounting to $148,695.05, according to government records. Only one-quarter of that amount has been paid. Finance department records note "payroll records missing" for one Pride group, a disregard for delinquecy notices, and a maze of Pride bank accounts.
Despite the long history of tax delinquencies by the Pride spinoffs, the matter has been referred to the corporation counsel only once for criminal prosecution, that being in 1977.
Willful failure to file returns or pay corporate franchise, personal property or employe withholding taxes is a criminal offense subject to fines and imprisonment, according to officials of the corporation counsel office.
The finance deprartment routinely requests corporation counsel to prosecute tax delinquents who owe far less back taxes than the Pride groups. Such cases include the prosecution of a man who failed to pay $500 of personal income tax on his 1978 salary of $12,000. Another example involved a sole proprietor of a business who is being prosecuted for failing to pay $2,600 in 1978 sales taxes.
"There's no particular reason why we didn't try to prosecute them. We tried to once and failed," delinquent collections chief Pace said in referring to the 1977 recommendation for prosecution. Pace said the large workload on revenue officers is largely the reason.
Other senior finance department officials who asked not to be named said they did not understand why the Pride delinquencies had not been prosecuted.
The Pride spinoffs owe the District $89,562.86 in back taxes, some of which date back to 1974. If the case were prosecuted it would be one of the largest tax delinquency cases in recent years, according to a corporation counsel official.
In addition, the Pride tax delinquencies have not been the subject of finance department audits or investigations.
Finance department officials say they showed no preferential treatment to the Pride groups, but on at least one occasion they departed sharply from their normal operating procedures.
In 1976 when P.I. Properties Inc. was delinquent in paying its withholding tax, Lester W. Garton, associate director of tax administration, sent Pace, the supervisor of delinquent collections, rather than a lower level auditor as is normally done to inspect P.I.'s books.
"I certainly was aware of who the taxpayer was and before I took some forceful action I wanted to make damn sure we were right. I don't view it as administrative caution,"Garton said.
Pace calls it a "matter of courtesy." Garton also instructed Pace to telephone Barry in September 1976 to tell him of the impending tax actions to be taken against his wife and the corporations she headed.
Barry, then a councilman and chairman of the finance committee, was not in and Pace left a message with his secretary to call regarding P.I. Properties.
The call was returned by Treadwell, according to the tax office telephone log and interviews with tax officials. Shortly afterward the P.I.. Properties bank account was seized and the $2,974 in back withholding taxes collected.