What's going on in the life of O'Fallon Councilman Rick Lucas?
He apparently hasn't paid his state income taxes and has failed to pay a Missouri Ethics Commission fine for violating campaign disclosure laws.
The commission fined him Oct. 14. It is the second ethics violation in Lucas's six-year political career, which dates to 2006 when he was appointed to the council by then-Mayor Donna Morrow. He has held office since.
On Nov. 1, the Missouri Department of Revenue filed a $4,512 lien against Lucas's home on Amesbury Court for not paying taxes.
Back in April 2009, Lucas won re-election, but before he could take his seat he had to pay an $850 ethics fine that was hanging over his head. He paid it.
Lucas is not currently at risk of losing his council seat. The city of O'Fallon follows state law in that it prohibits anyone from being a certified candidate or from being on the ballot if he or she has unpaid city taxes or city user fees, such as a water bill.
It says nothing about not paying your taxes after you're in office.
I understand these are tough times economically. A lot of people are out of work. I called Lucas and asked if he had lost his job.
No, he still works for Diebold Inc. repairing ATM machines.
I also can understand confusion over the requirements of campaign-finance disclosure.
Lucas told me his life has been chaotic in recent months because his 21-year-old son and his son's girlfriend had a baby girl in August. In addition, the couple's car broke down. Neither of them has a job.
As a result, the young family moved into Lucas's house.
"It has caused a lot of stress on me," Lucas says. "Hopefully, all this should be cleared up by the end of the year."
But what about not paying your state income tax? That would predate recent events concerning your son.
That's the state's fault, Lucas says. He said he filed his taxes online using TurboTax, a tax preparation software program.
"They said they did not get my tax form," he says. "They actually owe me money from that."
Lucas told me he contacted a lawyer to plead his case over his state income tax.
I asked who his lawyer is, and Lucas then told me he had not yet contacted a lawyer. But would.
Regarding the $700 fine from the Missouri Ethics Commission, Lucas says he recently sold some stocks to come up with the money.
"I just got that check in the bank," he says.
Unfortunately, he now might need more than $700. The ethics panel actually fined Lucas $7,000 but agreed to settle for $700 if Lucas paid that amount within 45 days of its Oct. 14 decision, as long as Lucas followed campaign-finance laws for the next two years.
A spokesperson for the commission told me Lucas's deadline was Nov. 28 and that as of Monday (Dec. 12) Lucas had not paid.
As far as I know, Lucas is a diligent, dedicated councilman. His Ward 1 constituents think enough of him to keep him in office. He ran unopposed in 2010.
I also know how difficult life can become when your child struggles.
On the other hand, I don't know of many elected officials who have state tax liens on their home. Or who would let a tax dispute get to that point. Or who not once but twice paid so little attention to state laws on campaign disclosure.
The current situation is not good for Lucas, and it's not good for the city.
For example, in June 2010 Lucas cast a vote that doomed a bill that would prohibit companies owned by elected or appointed O'Fallon officials from bidding on city projects.
At this point I wonder if Lucas is qualified to vote on ethics legislation.
And finally, do you want a councilman who not only doesn't pay much attention to — or knowingly ignores — campaign finance laws, who also happens to be in an apparent financial bind, voting on million-dollar city contracts?
These contracts are proposed by people, oh so caring people, who just might be willing to help out a guy who's in a bit of a financial pickle.