Apparently tipped off by questions from a TNReport.com correspondent, state Sen. Diane Black, R-Gallatin, and her husband David L. Black said they learned they were delinquent on property taxes of $51,740.64 on a building they own in Nashville. They paid the tax bill in full on Friday morning.
A statement they received from Metro on Friday showed the balance due is now $0.00.
Diane Black is running in the Republican primary for the 6th District congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon, a Democrat from Murfreesboro. Black is in a heated contest that includes former Rutherford County Republican Party chairwoman Lou Ann Zelenik and fellow state Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville. Black and Zelenik have become embroiled in a heated dispute that has moved from television campaign advertisements into court in Davidson County.
David Black, president and CEO of Aegis Sciences Corporation, asked a judge in Nashville this week to stop the running of television ads by Zelenik that claim Diane Black used her position as a state legislator to funnel $1 million to her husband’s business. Mr. Black, whose company conducts drug tests, says the Zelenik ad could irreparably harm his business, thus the request for the court to intervene.
Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Hamilton Gayden on Thursday refused to step in to prevent the Zelenik ad from being televised. But that did not settle the basic issues in the complaint, which will still be addressed after the Aug. 5 primary.
Diane Black was asked on Thursday night about tax issues on business property she and her husband own through Ebon Falcon, LLC.
The delinquent taxes were on a property in MetroCenter at 365 Great Circle Road and owned by Ebon Falcon. The taxes due were $51,740.64, but since the bill was overdue, interest and fees on the property had built to $3,880.55, making the total due by July 31, 2010 of $55.621.19.
Shown these figures, Black indicated surprise and immediately said she needed to call her husband about the matter. David Black said Friday he told his wife on Thursday they had paid all their taxes in full, but he said he had to tell her otherwise on Friday morning when he learned details about 365 Great Circle Road. Ebon Falcon owns additional property in MetroCenter that apparently has no outstanding tax issues.
“I was totally unaware there was an issue,” Diane Black said Friday. “When it was presented to me I immediately started an investigation to remedy the situation. There was nothing intentional. It was overlooked. A mistake was made, and when we found out we took care of the situation.”
David Black said he bought the building at 365 Great Circle Road in the summer of 2009 out of bankruptcy and that it had back taxes of more than $70,000 owed on it from 2007 and 2008 but that those taxes were paid at the time of closing on the property. He said Ebon Falcon received tax notices on all its properties this year. Mr. Black said an accounts payable clerk paid the taxes on all the properties but somehow failed to notice the tax bill on the 365 Great Circle Road property. Mr. Black said he had been unaware of the delinquency on the taxes.
“My next question was, ‘Why didn’t we get a tax notice?’” David Black said Friday. “We did verify with the assessor’s office they did send out a tax notice, but we have no one here who says they received it. So apparently, we have two failings, the accounts payable clerk who is a good person and he does a very good job but he made a mistake, and we don’t know where the delinquent notice went. We don’t have anybody who can say they received it in the mail, but we did verify that it was mailed to us.”
David Black said it was all handled by his finance department, which includes 40 people. Black said the accounts payable clerk went Friday and paid the tax. He said a payment was made of $51.740.64, and then a separate payment on interest and fees for $3,880.55.
“We pay millions of dollars in taxes and fees, federal and state. Although this is an oversight and an accident, its a very minor portion of all of our contribution to the tax system,” David Black said. He said his understanding was that a delinquent notice was mailed July 5 but that no one at the business could account for it.
Most of the forensic toxicology work by Aegis, as well as drug testing for college and professional sports performed by Aegis, is done at 515 Great Circle Road, which is also owned by Ebon Falcon. Another location at 345 Hill Ave. owned by Ebon Falcon near the airport performs workplace drug testing and criminal-justice drug testing, which includes a contract with the state of Tennessee. The 365 Great Circle Road building currently has the business finance department there.
David Black said Ebon Falcon was changed from a family-owned non-corporate entity (FONCE) to an Obligated Member Entity when a state law on business status was changed. Ebon Falcon is incorporated as an LLC but is designated as OME status.
When Diane Black was asked about the tax issue on Thursday, she said she had heard about a tax issue only that day but what she heard regarded a condominium Ebon Falcon owns in the Cumberland building on Church Street in downtown Nashville. That property is a residence the Blacks bought in January of 2009 from former Nashville Predators owner Craig Leipold. David Black said Friday they renovated the condominium and use it for business purposes, although there are times it is used as a residence, such as when Diane Black is working late at the nearby Capitol.
But there are apparently no tax issues with the condo.
Meanwhile, Aegis Sciences issued a formal statement on Thursday about the court filing regarding the Zelenik campaign ad.
“Aegis Sciences, a full-service forensic sciences company, is built upon a foundation of integrity and honesty,” the statement said. “That’s why the malicious and false accusations made against Aegis in political advertising currently running must be corrected. Our intent is to protect our company, its more than 300 employees and the success we have created in our more than 20 years of operation.
“While we are disappointed in today’s court ruling on our request for immediate suspension of the ads we are not surprised, given the lack of time for the court to adequately assess the false accusations. In accordance with the judge’s ruling, Aegis will have a full and complete hearing to prove these statements false and defamatory. We are confident that ultimately Aegis and the truth will prevail.”