Supervisor Candidate Responds to 'Smear Campaign' on Late Tax Payments

Late tax payments are at the center of a last-minute debate between candidates for town supervisor.

A recent mailing sent to Yorktown residents and published by the campaign of Democratic supervisor candidate Don Peters has left his Republican opponent "outraged by personal attacks" and calling attention to a "smear campaign."

Surrounded by supporters outside his law office, supervisor candidate and former town attorney Michael Grace confirmed he had been late on his town tax payments due to personal matters that involved health issues of two of his four adopted children.

Peters said the mailing questioned Grace's ability to run the town's finances and that he simply stated the facts, which had been checked by his consultants. He said the mailing did not mention Grace's family or personal issues.

Grace said he was now current on all the taxes, including the penalties and interest.

"Two of my children had health issues which were not covered by insurance, one of them had a particularly serious and costly health issue," Grace said. "I had to make a choice. The choice was easy: protecting my children's health comes first. With all due respect my children's health issues are private and I am not going to discuss them further."

Grace, vying for the town's top position on Nov. 8, said he has paid more than $100,000 in medical expenses. He said his son still has problems that will be "longstanding."

"Despite the friendly assurances to me that [Peters] understood the hardships that lead to the late payments and that this was a personal matter and we would not discuss this outside of our friendship," Grace said, "Mr. Peters went ahead and carefully planned this hit piece to be launched late enough in the campaign, so that I would not have time to respond."

Peters, former town supervisor, said he believed when someone is running for office, he or she is in the public eye. He said Grace should have brought the fact he was late on taxes to the public before he ran for office. 

"I think people would understand," Peters said. "But to try to hide it is wrong."

Grace said the handling of his family's private business and personal tax issues is less relevant than the issued in the election. He said it is the , which questioned Yorktown's financial control, that Peters should be addressing.

Peters said the issue is how would someone handle a roughly $50 million budget if he can't pay his taxes.

"I sent [the mailing] out because I feel people should ask," he said and added it was not "nasty" or "derogatory" and did not mention anyone's family. "Why should I pay my taxes if my supervisor isn't?"

According to the town's tax assessor's office, Grace pays taxes to three properties — his Yorktown home, the lot next to his home and his law office in town. According to records, the most recent late tax payments from this year were on the lot next to his house which amounted to $697.74 (including penalties), which he paid in September. And a late tax payment on his law firm for $5,760.93 (including penalties), which he paid off in July. 

Grace said he was not ashamed of his situation and was not afraid that by holding a press conference he would bring attention to the issue.

"I've had my share of adversity in life, including cancer," said the father of seven. "And among other things I've had my share of challenges in insuring the health and well being of my adopted four children."

"I know I'm not the only one who has been late [on taxes]," Grace said. 

He said he is still a part of the community whether elected or not. He said he got into the election to raise issues and applauded his other opponent, incumbent Supervisor Susan Siegel, for not getting involved in personal attacks. 

"All I can say is I am hurt and disappointed that Mr. Peters would exploit what he knew was a long standing and painful personal hardship for my children, my family and myself for his political gain," Grace said.

Peters said he did not think it was a negative piece because he stated the facts. 

"Everybody is having a tough time out there paying their taxes," he said. "If everybody did not pay their taxes, the town would be bankrupt."

Anne Marie November 06, 2011 at 11:42 PM
I know Michael Grace and he is a man of integrity. Shame on Don Peters for not having any compassion for a fellow resident in trouble. To use someone's family issues to win an election is deplorable. Don Peters, you had your chance in office and couln't get re-elected a second term because of your record as supervisor. Why would we or should we re-elect you again. The timing of this mailing also speaks volumes of Don Peters. He could have brought this up earlier, possibly even at the debate if he was so concerned. I am so proud to know the integrity and grace Michael showed to face this issue head on with his head held high. Way to go!! It is nice to know we will have not only a great man in office but also one that can understand the people and their troubles.
Yorktown Tattler November 07, 2011 at 12:48 AM
Fact: Michael Grace did not pay his taxes for five years. What would happen to any of the rest of us who didn't pay our taxes because of financial problems, whatever the cause? The public has the right to know. Why should they pay their taxes if the supervisor doesn't. It's totally fair, even as sad as Mr. Grace's situation might be.
Jean November 07, 2011 at 01:25 PM
You ask, "What would happen to any of the rest of us...", the same that happened to Michael Grace. We would also be subject to penalties. Mr. Grace did pay his taxes, along with all the penalties that were due. If I had a child that needed medical attention, you can bet I would put my child above my taxes. Since it's obvious that Don Peters knew of this situation well in advance, and he felt people had the right to know, why did he wait until the 11th hour to tell us? It's totally a political move. My vote goes to Michael Grace & my prayers go to him & his family in their ongoing medical struggles.
Peggy Haviland November 08, 2011 at 01:36 AM
I am confused about a mailing by Don Peters about one of his opponents' tax information. As instructed in this Peters campaign mailing, I did request the tax information from the Town Tax office. I requested it for Donni as well. What to my surprise did I find? ...but that Don Peters, himself has a history of property tax mis-steps. ...INCLUDING A LIEN!! Apparently, while Mr. Peters was in office, as our town supervisor managing our town finances in 2008, he was delinquent in paying his own property taxes to the extent a lien had been placed on his business/personal property dating back to before he began his own campaign for the top post in town. I do not understand how Mr. Peters can publicly state "I told him on the phone point blank I have a problem with somebody that doesn't pay their taxes," while having been delinquent on his own tax payments for more than a year, including while running for and then elected for the very same office that he criticizes his opponent about. Can a candidate running for office, who brings forward this information about his opponent, really be so clueless about his own past? ...or perhaps he thinks the rules don't apply to him. Now THAT's a scary thought. After all of this, I have been able to verify that Mr. Grace has been paid up in full for more than a year. Thanks for the instructions on how to verify this information.
Bill November 08, 2011 at 06:03 PM
Great reply, Peggy!


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