A candidate vying for the District 2 seat on the Tyler City Council paid his delinquent property taxes Thursday, a delay that could compromise his eligibility to seek the office, officials said.
Records show the Rev. Jeffery Charles Burns paid $455.14 in property taxes, including penalties and interest, for amounts owed in 2011 after questions were raised about the delinquency and potential effect on his candidacy.
Property taxes were due Jan. 31, officials said.
Tyler’s city charter has specific requirements for people seeking a seat on the city council and being current on taxes is one of them, records show.
The Tyler Morning Telegraph was conducting a routine review of candidate qualifications ahead of the May 12 elections when the outstanding balance was discovered.
Officials expect an answer within a day or two — they are asking for a legal opinion based on existing case law.
Records show Burns submitted a sworn affidavit to the city when he filed for office, stating he was a United States citizen and eligible to run for office, held no felony conviction and was mentally capable of serving and upholding applicable federal and state laws.
His notarized application asking to be placed on the ballot was filed with the city secretary’s office on Feb. 14, records show.
When asked about the delinquency, Burns, 45, said it was paid in full.
Burns described the delinquency as an oversight on his part.
“I just forgot it,” he said. “When they (City Clerk’s Office) called and told me, I went and paid it. I just dropped the ball.”
Burns serves as pastor of New Zion No. 1 Baptist Church and is one of three people seeking the position held by outgoing Councilman Donald Sanders, who cannot run again because of term limits.
A review of the other two candidates revealed that Darryl Bowdre, 54, minister at South Central Church of Christ, is current on taxes owed on his home.
Retired computer software developer Sarah Coats, the third candidate, rents her home and is not responsible for taxes owed on it.
The Smith County Tax Assessor Collector’s office maintains a database of taxes owed.
By late afternoon, his payment had been credited to the account and no outstanding balance remained, the newspaper found.
Tax Assessor Collector Gary Barber was out of the office Thursday, but Sharon Hines, speaking in his absence, said information on the website is current and available for review by the public.
“It’s public record,” she said.
“Our charter requires a candidate to be current on amounts owed to the city,” Landers said. “I’ve just been handed a receipt … the receipt I have in my hand shows he (Burns) paid. It’s dated today and it shows he paid today.”
The city charter also requires candidates to be a qualified voter in the city, a resident of the district he or she wishes to represent at least six months before the election and continue to live there while serving as its representative.
On those points, all candidates meet the qualifications, the attorney said.
Landers said similar late payment situations have come up two or three times before — in all instances the eligibility was not challenged so the candidates paid up and continued their run at the office.
“If this one is challenged, then we will respond to that,” Landers said. “It’s up to the voters to decide.”
As of late Thursday all three candidates for the District 2 seat were still in the race, officials said.
Elections for Tyler mayor and City Council Districts 4 and 6 were canceled earlier because no one filed to challenge the incumbents, officials said.
Early voting starts April 30.