KANSAS CITY — A fourth-term Missouri House member from Kansas City has owed delinquent personal property taxes since 2005 and shouldn't have been allowed to run for re-election in 2008 and 2010, according to a review of records by The Kansas City Star.
Rep. Leonard "Jonas" Hughes IV never paid a $656.28 tax bill in 2005 that he owed for a Ford Explorer he sold late that year. Taxes are assessed on property owned as of Jan. 1 of each year and are due the following Dec. 31.
A Jackson County spokesman, Dan Ferguson, said the county has no record of that bill ever being paid. But Hughes, who filed a sworn affidavit prior to both elections stating he did not owe back taxes, insists he took care of that long ago.
"I was under the impression that I owed no property taxes, and that is why I signed the affidavit," Hughes said. "To knowingly perjure myself over the amount of money they claim I owe is just ... it doesn't make sense to do that."
But Ferguson said Wednesday that "we've done exhaustive research, and our records indicate that he is delinquent."
Meanwhile, the delinquent amount has risen to nearly $1,370 because of penalties and interest.
The Democrat is in his fourth — and final — two-year term because of term limits. He said he is certain he had paid all necessary taxes on the vehicle in 2005, but can't find the receipt to prove to the county collections department.
"It's a matter of me finding those records, coming up with that receipt, sitting down and correcting this matter," he said.
House leaders said the dispute probably won't immediately affect Hughes' status in the General Assembly, although that could change.
For Hughes, it's just the latest spat over election issues. He was sworn into office last week, more than a month after the Legislature convened, after he was blocked from taking office because he had failed to pay more than $19,000 in fees and fines to the Missouri Ethics Commission for campaign-finance violations.
Those fines were paid Feb. 9.
A state law that went into effect in 2007 requires candidates to be disqualified from the ballot if they owe taxes on income, personal property or their residence. That means, if Jackson County is correct that he still is delinquent, he should not have been allowed to run in the past two elections. He ran unopposed for the 42nd District of eastern Kansas City both years.
The law also requires candidates to sign an affidavit affirming "under penalty of perjury" that they are "not currently aware of any delinquency in the filing or payment" of taxes. Perjury is punishable by up to four years in prison or fines of up to $20,000.
"When I signed that, I felt I did not owe any back taxes to anyone," he said. "I didn't know that was still an issue."
House Minority Leader Mike Talboy said the legislature will figure out how to deal with Hughes once all the facts have come out.
"Obviously it raises questions, and there's going to have to be a process to figure out the truth," the Kansas City Democrat said. "If and when it is resolved, we'll deal with it appropriately."
House Speaker Steven Tilley, a Republican, said there are legal means to address wrongdoing if it's determined that Hughes broke a law.
"Clearly, if it is true, in many ways you could argue he perjured himself by signing the affidavit," Tilley said.