EDMONDS — Councilmember and Edmonds mayoral candidate Mike Nelson said a tax lien due to unpaid federal taxes does not disqualify him from serving in public office. The debt was paid off last year.
In a public letter earlier this month, Nelson acknowledged the $52,000 tax lien.
Internal Revenue Service documents, showing Nelson and his wife failed to pay their federal income taxes in full for six years starting in 2010, were sent to The Daily Herald and at least one other south Snohomish County publication in the lead up to the primary election. Nelson questioned the timing of the documents surfacing.
“This is something that was politically motivated, and coming up at a politically sensitive time,” he said in an interview with The Herald.
Edmonds resident Cliff Ruthrauff sent the documents to The Herald. He said the lien spoke of Nelson’s gross mismanagement.
“This happened over six years, this was not just one incident,” Ruthrauff said.
Nelson and his wife were able to pay off the debt in April 2018, according to Snohomish County records. A year before the lien was paid, the couple bought a house in the Firdale Village neighborhood of the city.
He said owning a home reduced his taxes and gave his family, with two young boys, a permanent place to live. Homeowners can deduct mortgage interest and property tax payments from their federal taxable income.
Nelson said many families, including his own, struggle to pay childcare, student loans and taxes as housing costs rise.
“Now, more than ever, we need elected officials who understand firsthand what people are going through to help ensure our government focuses on lifting people up rather than pushing them down,” he said.
Nelson had been on council since 2015. He is executive director of the Service Employees International Union Washington State Council. He’s held the position for six years.
The lien has his opponents concerned about Nelson’s ability to govern.
“I think it does raise questions in some people’s minds about his financial management capabilities,” said Neil Tibbott, councilmember and mayoral candidate.
Kristiana Johnson, also a councilmember and in competition for the city’s top job, said the lien raises a red flag.
“People have problems that need to be solved, and sounds like he was able to deal with it,” Johnson said.
Brad Shipley, a city planner also running for mayor, said he understands the obstacles facing many young families.
“People are going to have to make their own decisions about it,” he said.
Primary ballots went out this week and must be returned or postmarked no later than Aug. 6. Voters can either mail their ballots back, no stamp required, or place them in one of the county’s 19 designated drop boxes which will be open until 8 p.m. Aug. 6.
The top two candidates will advance to the Nov. 5 general election.