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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Enquiring Minds

The revenue will not be trifled with. The prattling about the rights of men will not be accepted in payment for a biscuit or a pound of gunpowder.
Edmund Burke (1729–1797)

There is no pleasure in writing this. Rep. Marie St. Fleur is a kind, intelligent lady. Of all the Chairs of the Education Committee, she was the only one to give any real credence to the problems of Cape Cod that were created by the 1993 Birmingham education formula. But her judgment in accepting an endorsement from Tom Reilly to be Lieutenant Governor was just dreadful.

I have read and listened to the extensive coverage of this matter, and there are a couple of questions that I have not seen asked.

According to the Boston Globe, here is a synopsis of the facts:
St. Fleur said she told Reilly she had ''some financial issues." But Reilly never asked for specifics, which include three delinquent tax debts in the last four years, including a 2005 federal tax lien of $12,711 against her and her accountant husband. St. Fleur also owes $40,000 in delinquent federally backed student loans. The state Office of Campaign and Political Finance also fined her $750 for trying to sell her six-year-old Honda to her campaign committee for $13,000 and continue to use it. (In an ironic twist, Reilly, as AG, is suing state Senator Dianne Wilkerson for numerous alleged campaign law violations.) When approached by the Globe Tuesday, St. Fleur said that she had paid down the federal tax debt to about $8,000 by making $500 monthly payments since last spring. But later, Corey Welford, a Reilly campaign spokesman, corrected her, saying that she had in fact made only one $500 payment last May and that the balance is still more than $12,000.” Also, her driver’s license has been placed in on-renewal status due to a failure to pay excise taxes, as has her husband’s, for failure to pay excise and parking tickets.

The questions –

  • Is it appropriate for a person to act as Chair of the Committee on Education while failing to pay $40,000 in student loans? Rep. St. Fleur is 43 yeas old, not some twenty-something still struggling. She is an attorney, who should be aware of a conflict.

  • Rep. St. Fleur was elected to the seat vacated by Tom Finneran, and in a highly unusual move, was named a Chair by the new Speaker DiMasi almost immediately. The extra stipend, above and beyond her salary as a legislator, is $5,000 per year. She has held the seat since 1999 – that’s $30,000 in leadership stipend. Why was that additional stipend not dedicated to paying down her debt? Rep. St. Fleur also receives franking, i.e., taxpayer funded postage for her mail, as well as her $300/mo stipend. Why did she need to try to scam her campaign committee with her car deal?

  • Since she failed to pay her property taxes in Boston for three of the last four years, why on earth did Tom Mennino urge Reilly to pick her as a running mate?

  • Rep. St. Fleur voted against the tax rollback and for reduced tuition for illegal aliens. Yet she herself failed to pay the taxes necessary to support these initiatives Why did she feel she could cast such votes?

  • Did she drive uninsured?

  • Why are we hearing about all this now, for the first time in the six years that she has been a committee chair? What do the reporters on Bacon Hill like Frank Phillips do with their time, other than cut and paste press releases from emails? Forget Tom Reilly's due diligence - what about theirs?

Rep. St. Fleur said that her problems were what allowed her to empathize with constituents who are not well-to-do. But here on Cape Cod, home of the self employed and small contractor, every plumber who struggles to make his quarterly payments, every dime store operator scraping together sales tax, every landscaper putting together withholding taxes – all of them know full well how delinquent you must be, the extent to which you must flout taxation, before a lien is placed. Rep. St. Fleur isn’t empathizing with them. She is taking extra money out of their pockets to make up the shortfall in the General Fund to fund her self-indulgent lifestyle as a pauper-legislator.

There is no room for a lawmaker who can’t live by the rules.


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