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Reilly's pick delinquent on taxes, loans

St. Fleur says she is repaying debts

State Representative Marie P. St. Fleur, Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly's choice to be his lieutenant governor running mate, has had three delinquent tax debts in the last four years, including an April 2005 federal tax lien of $12,711 against her and her husband, according to records examined yesterday by the Globe.

St. Fleur, in an interview last night, disclosed that she also owes $40,000 in delinquent federally backed student loans.

St. Fleur told the Globe last night that she had paid down the federal tax debt to about $8,000 by making $500 monthly payments since last spring. But later last night, 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.

Reilly, St. Fleur said, first approached her Saturday about being his running mate and offered her the spot on Sunday. She said she told Reilly that she had ''some financial issues" with taxes and student loans, but that he didn't ask her to provide any numbers and only sought assurance from her that she was dealing with the problems.

''This is embarrassing to me; I knew this was going to come out," St. Fleur said, adding later: ''I knew that when I stepped out like this that it might be the end of my career."

Nonetheless, she said, she has no intention of stepping aside nor any sense of whether her debt will be a political liability. ''That's up to how people interpret this," she said.

She said she believes most people will understand her problems, because they are so common: She and her husband have struggled to make ends meet on modest incomes while raising three children.

Reilly said last night that he warned St. Fleur that she would face extraordinary scrutiny, but he acknowledged that he didn't make any inquiries about the extent of her financial problems before inviting her to join his campaign. Picking St. Fleur, he said, ''was less a political calculation than my belief in this person."

''She'll connect with ordinary people," he said. ''She'll understand their struggles."

The public record of the federal tax liability is missing from the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds, where it should be readily available to anyone doing a database search. Secretary of State William F. Galvin, who oversees the Registry, said he is launching an inquiry to make sure no one acted to remove the record.

''At best, it was a clerical error; at worst, it was something else," Galvin said.

Thomas M. Ryan, the first assistant registrar, said that the only plausible explanation is that the Internal Revenue Service did not file the lien with the Registry.

The Globe found a public record of the federal lien in a database in US District Court. The record shows that the IRS filed the lien against St. Fleur and Jean B. Lauture, her husband, on April 26, 2005, for taxes due on their joint return for 2003. An IRS spokeswoman said yesterday that such liens are not discharged until they are fully satisfied.

In addition, the City of Boston twice filed liens against a house the couple own on Hartford Street in Dorchester. The first lien was lifted in 2002, after St. Fleur made tax payments totaling $2,249; the second was removed in 2003 after payments totaling $4,948.

The records, including court documents examined by the Globe, suggest that St. Fleur and her husband have had chronic financial problems. In 1997, the Boston Gas Company sued St. Fleur and her father, Paul Lubins St. Fleur, who sold her the house for a nominal sum in 1999, for unpaid gas bills of more than $2,600. The claim was settled in 1998. In 1992, St. Fleur and her husband lost their first home, on Old Morton Street in Mattapan, to foreclosure by the First National Bank of Boston. Last night St. Fleur recalled that in 1992 she was pregnant, caring for a toddler, and her husband was out of work.

The existence of the tax liabilities in city, state, and federal records immediately raised questions about why Reilly's campaign made no effort to scrutinize St. Fleur's background before Reilly, the leading candidate in polls for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, invited the popular Dorchester legislator to be his running mate.

Since 1990, it has become commonplace for the leading candidate for each party's gubernatorial nomination to express a preference for a running mate before the primary, although voters must choose separately among candidates for lieutenant governor. Four other Democrats have announced plans to run for lieutenant governor.

St. Fleur, who graduated from Boston College Law School in 1987 and has been in the Legislature since 1999, acknowledged in the interview with the Globe that she has long struggled with financial problems. At one point, she said, she had to choose which bills to pay. One obligation she set aside for a long time, she said, was the student debt she accumulated in law school. Starting roughly three years ago, St. Fleur began making monthly payments of $100 and increased the payments to $300 about six months ago, according to a campaign spokesperson.

As for the $12,711 federal tax bill, St. Fleur said she and her husband, who is an accountant, did not have sufficient taxes withheld in 2003 and were surprised to find they owed such a large sum.

Liens are routinely recorded at registries of deeds to ensure that all parties to real estate transactions know of encumbrances to a property. It is rare for such records to be missing from the Registry's files and from its database, at www.masslandrecords.com. Such a lien, attached to property records, would prevent the sale of the house until the debt is paid.

Galvin, whose office oversees most of the state's registries of deeds, including Suffolk, said in an interview that he recalls St. Fleur called his office about a year ago about a lien or some other issue related to the registry. Galvin said he did not take her call, but his office probably referred her to the Registry.

St. Fleur, however, said she had never called Galvin's office or the Registry about the lien.

She recalled that when she recently met with a group of 120 poor women, some of them ''looked at me as if I don't get it."

She said she told them: ' ''I know what it's like to lose everything, to lose your home.' We talked about shame. I know about shame."

Beth Healy and Francie Latour of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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STATEMENTS:  Tom Reilly (2/1/06)  Marie St. Fleur (2/1/06)
COMMENTARY:
 BRIAN MCGRORY: Political malpractice (Boston Globe, 2/3/06)
 SCOT LEHIGH: A taxing week for Democrats (Boston Globe, 2/3/06)
 ADRIAN WALKER: Strange missteps (Boston Globe, 2/2/06)
 JOAN VENNOCHI: Reilly's judgment is suddenly suspect (Boston Globe, 2/2/06)
 GLOBE EDITORIAL: Encumbered candidates (Boston Globe, 2/2/06)
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