Coffee Named in Federal Tax Lien

Monday, March 23rd 2009, 2:28 pm
By: News 9

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY -- State Senate President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee is named in a federal tax lien filed by the Internal Revenue Service last year that sought $28,822 in federal taxes owed for almost two years, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The documents indicate that Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, paid off his overdue tax bill within one month after the lien was issued by the government. The lien was prepared on Oct. 27, and a certificate of release of the lien was issued on Nov. 26, according to documents on file in the Oklahoma County clerk's office.

The tax lien disclosure prompted some Democratic members of the Senate to question Coffee's leadership and call for his resignation.

"I think he should step down as pro tem of the Senate," Sen. Richard Lerblance, D-Hartshorne, said Friday.

Coffee, an attorney, knows the importance of paying personal income taxes on time, said Lerblance, assistant Democratic floor leader in the Senate.

"He's the elected pro tem of the Senate and he hasn't paid his taxes on time," Lerblance said. Although the taxes have been paid in full, there was a period of time in which Coffee maintained a tax debt with the federal government, he said.

"I think he still has an obligation to make sure it gets paid on time. The responsibility lies with the taxpayer."

Coffee, the first Republican leader of the Senate in state history, declined to comment on whether his private tax issue should reflect on his public leadership.

"That's for others to decide," Coffee said.

Coffee, who is affiliated with the Phillips Murrah law firm in Oklahoma City, said he takes responsibility for the matter.

"I did owe the money. There were extenuating circumstances. I borrowed the money to pay it off," said Coffee, R-Oklahoma City.

The lien was filed the same year that former House Speaker Lance Cargill resigned from the House's top job following a series of embarrassing revelations that included submitting late property tax payments and not filing state personal income tax returns.

A lien is a legal claim on property that makes it collateral against money that is owed. Property that carries a lien can be forced into sale in order to collect.

The tax lien lists Coffee's residence and names himself and his wife, Lisa. It is for the tax period that ended on Dec. 31, 2006. The taxes were assessed in November 2007.

Coffee, who cannot run for re-election next year due to term limits, said he sought an extension of time in which to file his income tax return but that the time lapsed before the taxes were paid.

"Taxes are due on April 15," Coffee said. "I got an extension and it didn't get done on time."

He said he was attempting to secure a bank loan to pay the $28,822 tax bill when the lien was filed.

Coffee indicated he works with an accountant to prepare his taxes but that he takes responsibility for the tardiness.

"I am always personally responsible for my own taxes," Coffee said.

The Senate's Democratic caucus chairman, Sen. Kenneth Corn, said Coffee's tax problems reflect on his leadership of the Senate.

"I think it calls into question the standard of leadership which he offers," said Corn, of Poteau. But Corn stopped short of calling for Coffee's resignation.

"We do have a responsibility as policymakers to set an example for the rest of the state. But we are human and make mistakes," Corn said. "It sounds like Senator Coffee tried to correct it."

Several Democratic senators declined comment. Senate Democratic Leader Charlie Laster of Shawnee said he would withhold comment until he gets all the facts.

"That's the first I've ever heard of that," Laster said. "Sometimes there are tax disputes and the IRS files tax liens."