Lynette Sweet’s finances: Curiouser and curiouser

Pub date September 27, 2010
WriterNoah Arroyo
SectionPolitics Blog

By this time it’s old news that Lynette Sweet, current BART Board Budget Committee chair and District 10 supervisorial candidate, has some issues with the Internal Revenue Service. She owed the IRS taxes going back to the year 2000, and the consequent lien on her property exceeded $20,000 in 2007.

Sweet says she never knew about the lien and thought she’d paid the taxes.

We’re still trying to figure out exactly how this happened — and the trail gets more and more convoluted.

We first called Sweet early in September, after we read about her tax troubles in the Chronicle. When we asked Sweet how she could have been unaware that the IRS was after her, Sweet told us that she’d been working with the tax firm JK Harris. She and Harris reached a deal to pay the IRS $14,500. She told us she bought a cashier’s check at Wells Fargo and mailed it in. But for some reason, she made the check out to herself, not the U.S. Treasury — so the IRS couldn’t cash it.

Normally, when you owe the IRS money, they let you know. But in this case, Sweet says she heard nothing from the feds.

When the Guardian pressed her, Sweet blamed JK Harris for not having forwarded her any of the mail in question. “I gave them power of attorney,” she said. “They had all the communications from the IRS.”

But we reached the the tax firm recently, and the folks there beg to differ. Gina Anton, Director of Corporate Communications at JK Harris, told the Guardian that any mail the IRS sent, it sent to Sweet. JK Harris’s role in Sweet’s tax kerfuffle appears modest — she hired the firm to merely act as intermediary between herself and the IRS.

Said Anton: “Our role was to obtain documents from both her and the IRS to determine what amount she could afford and what the IRS would consider an acceptable amount.”

JK Harris did not cut any checks, or inspect any checks after Sweet had cut them, Anton told us. Just the opposite: whatever documents the firm had prepared for Sweet, they sent to her for approval before forwarding them to the IRS.

Furthermore, said Anton, JK Harris was trying to reach Sweet for two years, after Sweet sent the IRS the dubious cashier’s check that she had hoped would diffuse her tax problem. Sweet finally returned JK Harris’s calls when she found out the IRS could not cash the check.

It’s all pretty odd for someone who’s worked in the banking industy for 22 years.

Questions surrounding Sweet’s finances reach beyond troubles with the taxman. She told us recently that she has worked at two companies that she never listed on her economic interest statements.

In her discloure forms, viewable at the BART Board website, she lists no sources of income after 2004, when she reported that she was employed by BayCAT (Bayview Hunters Point Center for Arts and Technology). However, in a very short and heated interview Sept. 10, Sweet told the Guardian that after she had worked at BayCAT, she had also worked at the African American Interest Free Loan Association and Trans Bay Cable.

In fact, she said she had worked at Trans Bay Cable, which is building an electricity line from Pittsburg to San Francisco,  until May of this year, when she left the company to run for office.

Which raises the question: If she was working all those years, why do her economic interest statements show no sources of income at all from 2004-2009?

The Guardian has attempted many times over the past week to contact Sweet to follow up on that question, but she’s stopped returning our calls or responding to our emails. (She’s also refused to come talk to us for an endorsement interview.)

Here are the questions her campaign has decided not to answer:

1.) What were Sweet’s periods of employment with the African American Interest Free Loan Association and Trans Bay Cable? Did she receive any income for this work? Whether yes or no, would she like to comment on the nature of that work?

2) What was the source of the tax that Sweet owed the IRS? Was this a tax on income? If so, then for income from work with which companies?

3) Why did Sweet elect to pay what she owed the IRS by means of a cashier’s check? (Why not a personal check?)

We’re also wondering why she didn’t list any income on her disclosure forms or why she made the check out to herself.

If she gets back to us, we’ll let you know.