Top Snyder aide claimed tax exemption on 2 homes
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A top aide to Gov. Rick Snyder said Thursday he will immediately pay local property taxes that were “inadvertently exempted” on his Lansing-area house at the same time he took a similar exemption on a longtime home in the Chicago area.
Richard Baird, the governor’s transformation manager, bought a house in Clinton County’s Bath Township in 2011 while his wife and daughter continued living in Palatine, Illinois.
Baird should not have been able to lower his tax bill in Michigan if he took a “substantially similar” principal residence exemption on the $400,000 Illinois home, according to guidelines listed on the Michigan Department of Treasury website.
The Michigan house was worth nearly $500,000 last year, according to local property records. That means Baird may owe about $4,400 more in taxes for 2013, $4,300 in 2012 and a similar amount for 2011, depending on the taxable value that year — plus penalties and interest, according to Associated Press calculations.
“It apparently was an inadvertent error made in closing documents during the home purchase process,” Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said. “Rich is immediately contacting the county/township offices to verify information, and he will immediately pay any Michigan property taxes that were inadvertently exempted.”
The Lansing-based news service MIRS first reported about the tax issue Thursday after investigating Baird’s residency when a conservative blogger criticized his recent candidacy as a Republican precinct delegate. Allies of Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley are working to fend off a tea party challenge to Calley at the state GOP nominating convention being held Saturday.
Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer, raised concerns.
“Richard Baird deserves to be investigated for tax fraud and voter fraud. This isn’t the first time that Baird has come under scrutiny for questionable behavior,” Schauer spokeswoman Cathy Bacile Cunningham said in a statement.
Democrats earlier this year accused the Snyder administration of protecting his cousin’s furniture company from a proposed cut in a state contract while questioning Baird’s role because he was being paid by the Republican governor’s since-disbanded fund of anonymous donors. Baird now is on the state payroll.
Wurfel said Baird is clearly a Michigan resident because he lives in the suburban Lansing home at least five days a week and has been registered to vote in Michigan since April 2013, when he got his state driver’s license. Baird has only voted in Michigan since then, she said.
He thought when he surrendered his Illinois driver’s license that he no longer was an eligible Illinois voter. But to ensure Illinois’ voter files are up to date, he will immediately request that his voter registration there be rescinded, Wurfel said.
“He tries to go home on the weekends whenever possible to see his wife and family. It’s a challenging situation for them but one they believe is worth it to help make a difference in Michigan’s comeback and for the state where they are from, met and started their lives,” she said.
After Snyder graduated from the University of Michigan in the early 1980s, Baird hired Snyder to work as an accountant in Detroit at Coopers & Lybrand, now PricewaterhouseCoopers, where Snyder later became a partner. The men also worked together in Chicago before Snyder left to join Gateway Computers.
Baird joined the governor-elect’s transition team after the 2010 election and was hired as a top adviser when Snyder took office. He has handled recruitment for Snyder, including luring Washington, D.C., lawyer Kevyn Orr to become Detroit’s emergency manager in 2013.
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