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Does the tax thing really matter?
June 14, 2011 - Jessica Collier
So we talked this morning about the Free Press and its coverage of the hearings. I'm curious now to get some comments on what you thought of Dan McClelland's editorial in last week's edition.
McClelland takes issue with John Caffry, attorney for Protect the Adirondacks, for trying to introduce into the hearing record a public document obtained from the Franklin County Clerk's office showing the IRS notifying developer Tom Lawson that the federal government was instilling an $88,000 tax lien on him for nonpayment of income taxes.
I'm typing these quotes out because I don't think you can find it online (or at least I can't).
"It was an obvious attempt, in our opinion, to try to assail Mr. Lawson's reputation and this character for no other apparent reason than to tear away the financial foundation of the project.
"Mr. Lawson is a partner in the limited liability corporation Preserve Associates, which is the actual developer of the proposed ACR. Under the legal framework of the LLC, only what a principal has invested in that entity and the holdings of that entity are at risk in any enterprise. What Mr. Lawson may or may not owe the IRS is irrelevant in this situation, and Judge O'Connell correctly ruled it so. ...
"From the beginning, 'Protect the Adirondacks' has fought to kill the four-season development here — spending thousands and thousands of dollars to that end.
"This time the organization's attack, through their legal agent Caffry, was personal and vicious. It turned many stomachs here. People here who belong to the organization or who support it should be ashamed."
McClelland goes on to talk about some of the many wonderful things Lawson has done for the community.
What's the reaction to this? Do you agree with Dan? Is it an unnecessary, shameful personal attack?
Caffry argued when he was trying to submit it into evidence that Lawson's financial trustworthiness may have an impact on whether people or institutions are willing to invest in the project, from buying bonds to purchasing property. Is including his personal finances in these considerations responsible due diligence, or is it totally immaterial?
Judge O'Connell ruled that he didn't see its relevance and didn't allow the document into the record.
For Lawson's part, he told me that the whole thing was untrue and that most of the tax issues have been half resolved already. This isn't the first tax issue Lawson and his colleagues have had over the last few years, but it is the first time I'm aware of that his personal finances have been dredged up.
On the same day, Caffry tried to introduce into the record documents showing that Lawson owed on his personal property taxes in addition to the reported problems with taxes on the properties that are part of the resort plans. Before O'Connell could rule on that, though, Ulasewicz and Caffry came to an agreement that the resort property information would be entered into the record while excluding the info on Lawson's personal properties.
Lawson told me the whole thing was false, that the balance due being shown on his personal property was just from a tax bill he hadn't even received yet. But that confuses me, because I'm pretty sure that taxes due aren't even recorded at the county until they're late a few months. The town collects county taxes and only relevies them to the county when they're late by a few months.
Anyways, what do you think? Did Caffry have good reason to try to introduce the information? Or was he way out of line?
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