After more than nine months of trying, the State of Colorado has succeeded in collecting close to $1,500 in delinquent taxes from state representative Glenda Swanson Lyle.
Lyle, a Democrat from north Denver who was recently elected House minority whip, sent the state a cashier's check covering most of the tax debt after Mark Field, an attorney for the state, garnisheed her House wages. Field, who earlier asked a judge to hold Lyle in contempt for failing to respond to court filings, said last week he expects that Lyle will have paid off the debt completely by the end of the month and that the contempt proceedings against her will be dropped.
"It's pretty well squared away right now," says Ronald C. Williams, Lyle's attorney. "We're waiting for a few technical things to clear up." Lyle, first elected to House District 8 in 1992 and re-elected in November, says she intends to take care of all her "financial responsibilities."
Lyle ran up her debt with the state by failing to pay unemployment insurance for her consulting firm, Planners Etc., in 1990 and 1991. The state sued her in February in Denver County Court after efforts to collect the debt by both the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Administration failed.
Lyle blames her business tax woes on the "huge amount of time" she has devoted to public service in the legislature and during a past stint on the board of the Regional Transportation District. "It has financially devastated me," Lyle says of her political career.
Records show that Lyle has had difficulty paying taxes and other debts for close to a decade.
In 1986 the Internal Revenue Service slapped more than $15,000 in liens on her property for unpaid business taxes from the previous year. Those liens were eventually released, but records from Lyle's divorce indicate she still owed the IRS more than $13,000 in 1988. The latest federal tax lien against Lyle came in 1992 for more than $1,600 in unpaid business taxes.
A collection agency for the Denver Hilton Inn South sued Lyle and a number of other defendants in 1988 following a conference at the hotel held by a group called Western States Black Women and Business Enterprise. The hotel wanted Lyle, a director of the organization, to pay back more than $7,400 it said it was owed for lunches and drinks for the 200 people who attended the September 1986 gathering. A judge eventually dismissed Lyle as a defendant in that case.
In early 1992 City Center Bank of Colorado foreclosed on a $60,000 mortgage Lyle had taken out on her Lafayette Street home after Lyle failed to make payments on the loan. Lyle sued in Denver District Court to thwart the foreclosure; the bank seized the property anyway.
In June 1994 the City of Denver put a lien on Lyle's new home in Five Points after she neglected to pay $80 in storm-drainage charges.
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Williams acknowledges that Lyle has a history of tax problems. But he says she's always been able to meet her obligations in the end. "She, like many other businesspersons, has had her ups and downs," Williams says. "But once the issues came to a head, she resolved them to the full satisfaction of the state and federal entities."
Mike Hesse, executive director of the Colorado Republican Party, says he's surprised Democrats elected Lyle minority whip, the fourth-highest position of party leadership in the House, since her current tax dispute with the state was publicized well before the November election ("Hauled Into Court," October 12). "If I was a member of the Democratic legislature, I would want to rethink that decision," Hesse says. "Is this somebody you want in a leadership position?" Hesse says it's "hypocritical" for elected officials to make decisions about spending tax dollars when they're not paying their taxes themselves.
Representative Peggy Kerns of Aurora, the new Democratic minority leader in the House, could not be reached for comment. Assistant minority leader Diana DeGette of Denver declines comment on the situation, saying she is not familiar with the details of Lyle's current tax dispute. "I didn't hear of it being raised as an issue" before the House leadership elections, says DeGette.