Harriman councilman owes county taxes

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By Cindy Simpson

Harriman City Councilman J.D. Sampson loyally attends city meetings.

He’s so passionate about the city he serves that he won’t shop elsewhere, and he often playfully chides officials for shopping at Walmart, the retail giant that left Harriman for Rockwood years ago.

His loyalty, though noble, may mean little if he doesn’t
pay back taxes owed to the county.

And it could cost him his council seat, because Harriman’s City Charter limitations on eligibility for sitting on City Council include not owing delinquent city or county taxes.

“Right now my business is just about at rock bottom,” Sampson said Friday. “I’ve got just enough to keep what help I got, pay the mortgage and keep the lights on.

“It really hurts me I’m behind on them,” he added.

Roane County tax records on Friday showed Sampson owes $4,192 in 2012 property taxes on three properties he owns.

That amount includes interest, which Roane County Trustee office clerks say increases by 1.5 percent each month after the February due date.

“It is just something I cannot help,” he said. “I’d like to run for council next year, but if I don’t have my taxes paid, I won’t,” Sampson said.

“I will pay them when things pick up.”

Sampson is not the first city official — or even the first candidate for city office — to come under question for owing taxes.

In recent years, Harriman Mayor Chris Mason was questioned for a tax issue he said was resolved because it was agreed when he sold his Margrave Street property that the taxes fell to the new owner.

Records also showed former fire chief Wayne Best, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor and made a later a council bid, once owed back taxes.

Harriman City Attorney Harold Balcom said at the time that any elected officials would have to have their tax issues remedied before being sworn into office.