The Washington Post

Valerie Ervin pays off lien for unpaid state income taxes

Elected officials aspiring to higher office prepare themselves in any number of ways for that next big race. They work to grow their fund-raising base or commune with pricey media consultants and pollsters. They may also clean up any sticky financial matters that might cause embarrassment later.

Court records show that last month Montgomery County Council member Valerie Ervin, who is gearing up to run for county executive in 2014, paid off a $4,746 lien against her Silver Spring home and other personal property for unpaid state income taxes dating back to 2007. The lien was filed in Montgomery Circuit Court by the state comptroller’s office in May 2011. It was reported then by The Montgomery Gazette.

Ervin (D-Silver Spring) called the tax situation “a very simple matter” that began when she left her job as chief of staff to Council member George Leventhal in 2006 to run for the council. Needing money to live on during the campaign, she withdrew funds from her 401-K retirement account.

Ervin said she did her own taxes that year “and got a big refund” from the state that turned out to be in error. She began to pay some of the balance back in 2009, she said. But as a divorced single mother with a son in college, she said she couldn’t do it all at once.

“It turned out to be a bigger nut than I could afford,” said Ervin, who earns $104,000 annually as a council member. The payment consisted of $3,545.42 in taxes, $988.44 in interest and $212.44 in penalties, according to court documents.

She said paying off the lien in December had nothing to do with her likely candidacy for county executive.

“That’s just not true,” she said.

Word of the December payment came in the form of an anonymous tip Tuesday, shortly after a story about Ervin’s moves to assemble a campaign organization. She blamed the politically potent union representing county workers, the Municipal and County Government Employees Organization, an affiliate of the United Food and Commercial Workers, for circulating word of the lien payment. As council president in 2011 Ervin, a one-time UCFW organizer in the south, led an overhaul of the county’s disability retirement system against bitter union opposition. The bruising fight left her relationship with local president Gino Renne in tatters.

Renne said Wednesday the union had nothing to do with circulating word of Ervin’s tax troubles.

“If we have information to be shared, we’ll take ownership of it,” he said.

The Gazette also reported in 2011 that Council member Craig Rice owed state and federal taxes from 2007. Rice (D-Upcounty) said Wednesday that the matter was “long since settled.”

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.

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