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Lewis Reed speaks

St. Louis mayoral candidate and Aldermanic President Lewis Reed speaks at a forum Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, with other candidates at the Thomas Dunn Learning Center, 3113 Gasconade Street. Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.

St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed paid nearly $900 in delinquent taxes this week to avoid being kicked off the March primary ballot, where he is seeking re-election.

The rush to pay the bills came just hours after an employee of one of Reed’s opponents, Jamilah Nasheed, filed a formal complaint with the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners, alleging that Reed should be disqualified because he lied about having outstanding taxes when he filed for re-election in November.

The author of the complaint, Jefonte Nelson, noted that Reed was delinquent in personal property taxes on a 2006 Dodge Durango and that, despite owning a 2005 motorcycle, Reed never told the city he owned it so that it too could be taxed. Nelson cited a city ordinance supporting his complaint, hand-delivered Wednesday afternoon to the Election Board offices downtown.

“The Board of Elections has the authority to institute the ordinance’s process for removing Reed from the ballot for any delinquent taxes at any time on or before Election Day,” Nelson said in his letter.

The Post-Dispatch contacted Reed’s chief of staff, Tom Shepard, on Wednesday afternoon to ask about the delinquent taxes.

“He doesn’t have any personal property taxes due. He doesn’t have an outstanding property tax bill,” Shepard said.

On Thursday, after Shepard was contacted a second time by a reporter, he said that the delinquent tax bills on both vehicles had been paid and that Reed had officially declared the motorcycle as personal property.

When asked when the delinquent bills were resolved, Shepard said “very recently.” City records show the tax bill on the Durango — $795.58 — was paid online 9:15 p.m. Wednesday, four hours after the Post-Dispatch notified him of the complaint from Nasheed’s campaign. The $88.47 bill on the Honda motorcycle was paid Thursday morning.

Under city ordinance, once a complaint has been turned into the Election Board and the board determines taxes are owed, a candidate has seven days to pay the delinquent bill. Otherwise, “the candidate shall be disqualified from participating in the current election and barred from refiling for an entire election cycle.”

Gary Stoff, Republican director of the Election Board, said Thursday that Reed is in good standing and will remain a candidate on the March 5 ballot.

“We received from President Reed copies of the paid receipts for both the motorcycle and the Durango,” Stoff said. “He responded in a timely manner so everything about the ballot stays the same.”

Reed, who is seeking a fourth term, said the delinquent tax complaint was “just ridiculous,” an effort by his opponent to “trump up” negative news.

“This really isn’t a story,” said Reed, who has also twice run unsuccessfully for mayor.

Reed filed for re-election on Nov. 26, and signed an affidavit declaring under penalties of perjury that he was not delinquent in the payment of “any personal property taxes, real property taxes on any real property located within the City of St. Louis.”

Technically, the taxes on the Durango were not delinquent when Reed filed. Taxes for 2018 were due by Dec. 31, about a month after he filed for re-election. But as of Wednesday, the taxes were more than five weeks late. Reed said that he donated the SUV to a veterans group, and it was auctioned off by that group for charity. Since he no longer owned it, there was some confusion about who should pay the taxes, Shepard said.

The city had sued Reed the previous two years for delinquent taxes on the Durango. Those back taxes are paid in full. It’s the same Durango that was twice stolen.

In July 2012, the SUV, including about $30,000 in campaign checks in the glove compartment, was taken from outside his house on Russell Boulevard, in Compton Heights, and recovered a short time later. In November 2014, the vehicle was stolen a second time, and again recovered.

As for the motorcycle, Reed said that when he bought it in 2017, he licensed it for two years and forgot to declare it as personal property last year on a form mailed out by the assessor’s office annually asking residents to declare all vehicles they own.

“I just missed it,” Reed said.

Last month, the Post-Dispatch revealed that Reed had not yet paid a fine for failing to report campaign contributions, despite a statement from the campaign telling the newspaper that it had been paid in December.

Nasheed’s campaign manager, Lindsay Pattan, said in a statement that Reed should know how to properly file taxes after two decades as a city elected official.

“After 20 years of Lewis Reed’s irresponsible behavior, the city is ready for new leadership,” Patton said.

In addition to Reed and Nasheed, who is a state senator, St. Louis Alderman Megan Ellyia Green and former alderman Jimmie Matthews are running for board president.

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Doug Moore is a former reporter for the P-D. Currently, policy director for St. Louis County Council.