Haverhill city councilor and mayoral candidate Colin LePage said he was under attack by Mayor Fiorentini and his supporters for parts of his background which he said “are not as nefarious as they seem “.
A Valley Patriot investigation shows LePage filed for bankruptcy in 2005, paid a $ 300 fine in 2008 for driving with a suspended license in New Hampshire, and had an IRS land tax lien in 2007 for unpaid income taxes.
âI find it interesting that the mayor’s supporters are pushing this stuff so close to the election because they don’t want people to talk about the mayor’s lack of transparency and how he spends taxpayer money. He’s just not trustworthy or honest about what he’s done, so he wants people to talk about my past, âhe told The Valley Patriot.
In an exclusive interview, LePage told The Valley Patriot that he would be happy to address the three issues uncovered during our investigation.
DRIVING WITH A SUSPENDED LICENSE
According to records obtained over the weekend, LePage was cited for driving with a suspended license in Alton, New Hampshire in 2008. LePage pleaded guilty and was fined $ 300.
âIn 2008, I got a speeding ticket and they revoked my license for non-payment,â he admitted.
âBut I didn’t even know they did that. I received no notice. So one day we were going to my sister’s birthday party and I got arrested. It was the first time I learned about suspension. I paid the ticket and the fine. Honestly, I had no idea, my license in Massachusetts was not suspended and I was driving for work at the time. It’s a shame I had to find out this way, but I did the right thing and paid.
TAX GUARANTEE FOR NON PAYMENT OF TAX ON INCOME
Documents show that the IRS placed a land tax lien on LePage in the amount of $ 5,293.68 for non-payment of income taxes in 2008.
LePage said he had a dispute with the IRS around 2007 because, he says, his employer at the time sent him a 1099 for his reimbursement expenses, which are not taxable.
âMy employer was not paying half of taxes at the time, and at the same time he was sending me, an employee, a 1099 for my reimbursement costs. So every three years that this happened I ended up getting a tax refund but then the IRS came to me and told me I had to refund everything because of this 1099 issued by my employer.
“I didn’t have the money to fight the IRS, it would have cost me a lot more than the money they said I owed so I just paid it.”
LePage says he has been back and forth with the IRS on several occasions on the matter and added that as a salaried employee he should never have gotten the 1099 in the first place.
“Their real beef was with my old employer, not me, but when it all ended, I ended up footing the bill.”
âI went through this for three or four years in a row where I would get a refund and a few months later I would get an invoice for the refund amount. Then they would fix it, and the next year they would do the same.
“In the end, the IRS agreed with me, but at first it seemed like I was not reporting the correct amount.”
âBy the way, the town of Haverhill was doing exactly the same thing my former employer did when I first joined the council,â he added.
âI had never asked for reimbursement for city council expenses, but the city had a system in place where they created an allowance for councilors. I objected, saying they were taking tax from my check and I got a separate check. I knew it was wrong at the time and I told my fellow councilors and the city auditor. I was right years later.
âBesides, it was I who rectified that, it was only because of what I had experienced with my former employer that I understood what the mayor was doing. So I think having this experience with the IRS actually makes me more qualified and more informed to be mayor because now I understand these issues firsthand. I know the mayor and his supporters are going to get away with it, but it’s really not as bad as it looks.
LePage admits he declared Ch. 7 bankruptcy in 2005, adding that he had taken care of his ailing mother who had a mountain of credit card debt.
âShe had no pension and was on social security. I didn’t know she had all this debt when she moved in, but when I found out I took her to my lawyers to see what we could do about it, âhe said. .
âWhile I was there with the lawyers, they advised me to do the same with my debt and unfortunately I took the advice of my lawyers,â he said.
LePage said that, like many voters in Haverhill, he has had financial problems in the past, but adds that he believes those experiences with financial hardship were good training to serve on city council and manage the finances of the city.
Michael Gagliardi, commercial director of Local 175 of the Workers’ Union (which supported Mayor Fiorentini) says he disagrees.
âI find it incredible that a candidate who talks about transparency has tried to hide his bankruptcy declarations from taxpayers. I mean, if The Valley Patriot hadn’t dug this up, I don’t think he would have ever told anyone. If he can’t manage his personal finances, how can he be entrusted with the city budget?
Gagliardi also added; âNot only can he not manage his own finances, he cannot even pay his taxes on time. He is irresponsible with his taxes, he is irresponsible with his personal finances, and yet he wants to manage the finances of the city? God help us if this is the kind of fiscal irresponsibility he wants to bring to the city.
âNo one’s past is perfect,â LePage told The Valley Patriot.
âWhat’s important is what you do to move forward. Since my financial difficulties 15 years ago, I now have a line of credit of over a quarter of a million dollars, have less than 5% credit card debt and my credit rating hovers around 800. I think most voters can relate to this as many of them have also suffered from financial difficulties in the past.
“But to be fair,” he added, “the public should also examine the mayor’s record in handling his tax dollars.”
LePage pointed out that Fiorentini spent more money on the Hunking School project, forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for a $ 300,000 building permit for the Hunking School. It was not reimbursable by the state.
He also said Fiorentini had authorized a local developer to owe the city more than $ 250,000 âbecause the mayor apparently didn’t know. It was I who discovered it and brought it to the attention of the board and the public. At least my financial problems only affected me personally, but the mayor’s financial problems not only lack transparency but hurt taxpayers.
“We are paying the $ 300,000 building permit fees that the mayor charged taxpayers, who requested a debt exclusion for the schools but are now paying $ 300,000 more than they agreed to without any benefit. “
LePage concluded by saying he believes voters will not be fooled by the personal attacks on him.
âI really believe voters are more concerned with what I’m going to do with their money than with my personal past. This is an election to decide who is the best to run the city and how we are going to manage their money, and I think I have proven to the council that I am the best candidate to do so.