Candidate For District Attorney Plans To Pay Thousands In Back Taxes - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

2/16/06-Gilmer

Candidate For District Attorney Plans To Pay Thousands In Back Taxes

A candidate for Upshur County district attorney owes thousands of dollars to the IRS and to the county he hopes to work for.  Gilmer attorney Robert Bennett says he's working to pay off the debts, but claims he owes nowhere near the hundreds of thousands a county computer system indicates.

"I've made mistakes, and I've learned when you make mistakes, you own up to them and answer for them," he says.

Bennett says he and his law firm lost lots of money when tech stocks took a dive but he says he's sure he owes nothing like several hundred thousand dollars.

"I guess probably $40,000 or $50,000," Bennett says of what he believes he owes.

That would be a fraction of what county records appear to indicate. Bennett disputes the accuracy of these apparent IRS leins on his property, and in fact we did find one duplicate entry.  

"You've got to add it, add it again, and quadruple it and then onto another piece of paper and it's just incorrect," Bennett says.

The IRS wouldn't confirm an amount to KLTV, and Bennett says they haven't even given him a total balance due, but he's hopeful for a quick answer to the questions more people are asking.

"They've been really nice to me.  They say we're going to get it figured out," he says of the IRS agents with whom he's working.

Bennett also owes Upshur County, his hoped-for future employer. The county says they're owed right at $30,000 in property taxes.

"Some [tax] bills come to the office. Some bills go to the house, and they just got missed."

He says it was simply an oversight -- a mistake he didn't pay property taxes.

"I've never claimed to be the best businessman in the world," Bennett says.

A county office can be like a business -- with a staff and a budget. But Bennett says in his D.A. office, he would focus almost entirely on trying cases and leave the money to others.

"[Voters] need someone to go into the courtroom and spend as much time in there and let the businesspeople take care of business, and that's what I'll do,"

Reporter: "Can you assure the voters of Upshur County that these debts are going to be paid off by the end of the year?"

Bennett: "Absolutely."

Reporter:  "One hundred percent?"

Bennett: "One hundred percent."

Reporter: "And if they're not?"

Bennett: "Then I've lied to them and I'm not going to do that."

The Democratic primary is March 7th, and the winner of November's general election would be sworn in at the end of the year.

Robert Bennett has been an attorney in Gilmer for 15 years. He's running against Longview attorney John Moore and incumbent D.A. Mike Fetter in the Democratic primary. Early voting begins next week.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.

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