Tax delinquents abound in ATL District 11 council race
Atlanta voters can choose between two big-name tax delinquents this fall among a large field of candidates hoping to replace longtime City Council member James Maddox.
Property records are littered with dozens of liens, cancellations and transfers of debt to private collection services naming former Fulton Commissioner A. Reginald Eaves and former City Councilman Morris Finley.
Tax collectors in Fulton and DeKalb counties have dinged Finley with 40 liens for $22,922 in unpaid property taxes, solid waste fees and penalties since 2004, courthouse records show. Many remain unpaid.
Online records also refer to older, paid-off tax liens against Finley for unspecified amounts. Finley’s most recent liens, still unsatisfied, were filed in January for a home on Hosea L. Williams Drive in DeKalb County and in May for several homes in Fulton, including his residence.
Eaves’ name shows up on 19 liens recorded in DeKalb and Fulton since 2004, property records show. The liens totaled $21,365 in unpaid taxes and penalties. Taxes on at least one home, on Cascade Road, remain unpaid for 2007 and 2008, tax records show.
In 2002, voters amended the Georgia Constitution to say candidates who haven’t paid their taxes may not hold elective office. But the law can’t be enforced unless a court has officially confirmed the validity of the debt. That almost never happens, particularly in Fulton, where the tax commissioner routinely sells bundles of tax liens to private collection agencies.
Eaves and Finley are among nine candidates seeking to replace Maddox, who is retiring after 32 years as a council member. Records show a handful of tax liens against several other candidates in the District 11 race; all have been paid.
In a somewhat bizarre irony, Maddox suggested Tuesday at a committee meeting that the city only allow property owners to run for city office.
“They ought to be a property owner because that’s where your taxes come from,” Maddox said. “Since the people are paying for the election, an expensive election, the people who are running ought to at least be a part of that pot.”
City officials noted politely that voting rights laws might preclude such a requirement.