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Councillor Tatum’s tax debacle isn’t the first time

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7
Councillor Tatum's tax debacle isn't the first time

Court documents were filed Monday in the case regarding Councillor Colleen Tatum’s failure to pay her 2015 taxes. However, it’s what the documents didn’t include that may be the most interesting bit of information.

Multiple sources, whom requested anonymity due to positions within the municipality, have suggested that Councillor Tatum had been in arrears on her 2014 property taxes as well. That information was corroborated by local freelancer Verna Murphy, speaking in a pre-recorded interview for Fort McMurray Matters on Monday afternoon.

“It was brought to Colleen’s attention that her taxes at that time had to be brought up to date,” said Murphy, who ran in the same by-election.

Tatum reportedly brought her taxes up-to-date in time for her nomination papers to be cleared, which is reflected in the court documents filed Monday. An affidavit brought forward by Taxation Branch Manager Jeanne Goudie, which has not been proven in court, says that as of nomination day on March 1, 2015, Tatum had a $170.18 credit on her tax file.

That credit was then applied to the councillor’s account when her 2015 taxes were assessed, leaving the amount owed at $5,311.23. The affidavit then goes on to show that penalties accrued on the taxes as four notices were sent to Tatum’s home in August, September, December, and January. The final notice, dated January 14, shows an outstanding balance of $6,541.85.

Appearing on Fort McMurray Matters last week, Tatum said she was unaware of the taxes owed because her assistant opened all of her mail. She added that as soon as she found out about the situation, she paid her taxes in full.

Court documents show that Tatum in fact made a $3,000 payment on March 8, a week after Mayor Melissa Blake said she told Tatum of the outstanding balance. Another payment of $3,800 was made on March 10, the day Mix News and other outlets reported on the situation. The final payment leaves the councillor with a credit of $258.15 on her account.

Council voted 8-1 last week to file a court application to have a judge rule on the case. Several councillors and the mayor echoed sentiment that it would be better for a provincial judge to rule on a matter of provincial law.

Section 174(1)b of the Municipal Government Act says a member of council is disqualified if they are in violation of the Local Authorities Election Act. Section 22(1)c of that act shows a candidate is disqualified if they are indebted to the municipality exceeding $50. The MGA outlines that a councillor in this situation must resign their seat, which Tatum declined to do. That left council with the option of voting to file a court application on the matter.

Tatum has declined to comment on the matter, saying “it’s a legal matter.”

A judge is set to hear arguments on June 22.

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