One of two Pima County Republicans vying for a spot on the state commission that will draw new political lines did not disclose he owes delinquent property taxes or that he has been sued for fraud or a contract violation — information requested on his application.
Richard Stertz, the CEO of a faith-based group that encourages churches to take a more active role in the community, said he didn’t know until recently that two parcels on Mount Lemmon are not current on taxes.
On one parcel, the Pima County Treasurer’s office confirmed taxes weren’t paid for the second half of 2008 and the entire year of 2009. The first half of 2010, due in October, also wasn’t paid. On the other, he didn’t pay for tax year 2009 or for the first half of 2010. By the office’s calculations, he owes more than $6,000 in taxes.
His midtown home is up-to-date on taxes.
Stertz said the Summerhaven properties are owned by a trust and he was trying to get to the bottom of why the tax bills hadn’t been paid.
“I’m trying to make sure that gets cleaned up,” Stertz said Monday of his unpaid taxes. He said he just received notice a week ago that the taxes were late, and couldn’t speculate why he didn’t get notice earlier.
The application to serve on the commission asked for information on lawsuits alleging civil fraud or contract violations.
He said he didn’t think to include the old lawsuits because they involved his earlier companies.
In 1992, an architecture firm sued Stertz and others alleging fraudulent schemes and false claims related to using the company’s copyrighted work. The case was dismissed in 1993, with the defendants agreeing not to claim the company’s work as their own.
He was sued twice in 1988.
A law firm charged Stertz and his company owed more than $7,000 and attempted to defraud them by writing two bad checks, worth about $1,700. The court ordered Stertz to pay.
And Hotel Congress charged he owed more than $42,000 for vacating a lease. The court ordered him to pay $7,550.
“I answered the questions truthfully about me personally,” he said, adding he didn’t recall there being any allegation of fraud in the lawsuits.
About the time his design and woodworking company closed due to a slumping economy, he also faced about $160,000 in tax liens filed against him, dating to 1989. Rather than file bankruptcy, he said he repaid those debts and has discussed that period of his life with Senate President Russell Pearce, who will choose between Stertz and fellow Tucsonan Benny White.
Stertz said he is not seeking to serve on the commission to draw friendly lines for Jesse Kelly, who ran in Congressional District 8 against U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords last year. Kelly has a joint Saturday morning radio show with him. Kelly also volunteered to record a public service announcement for his company, Vision 360, earlier this year — which Stertz said makes sense because of Kelly’s name I.D.
Stertz, who is a voter in Congressional District 7, said he only got to know Kelly last year. He said they share a conservative ideology, and he finds Kelly a “nice young man,” but they’ve only done one show together. “We don’t have a long experience together, so the idea that I was acting as a proxy for Jesse, that’s as far away from the truth as you could possibly get.”
Pearce has until Wednesday to make a decision. Legislative leaders from both parties select four members of the commission, who then select a fifth member of the group that will draw new political boundaries.