Where Facts And Controversy In The News Come Together In Truth

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Wood County WV Commission President Allowed To Abuse State Tax Laws

Was Commission President Given Preferred Treatment On Back Taxes And Bank Loans?… By Jack Swint

Wood County WV Commission President Blair Couch is running again for re-election. He has been on the commission since 2007. Couch, a Republican will face Democrat candidate Harry Deitzler, a prominent attorney with the law firm of Hill-Peterson-Carper, Bee and Deitzler. He is a former Wood County prosecutor and has worked with the county commission in the past.

Information is now surfacing that raises the question if Couch should even be running again for Commissioner. Can he effectively oversee county business when it appears he can’t take care of his own personal financial affairs?  Our 3-week investigation uncovered records that show he owes thousands of dollars in unpaid back taxes on a former Wood County business. Since becoming commissioner he defaulted on one $65,000 loan with United Bank and documents we obtained show Couch used his position as Wood County Commission President to circumvent state tax laws for his own personal gain. And, he unsuccessfully tried to enlist the Sheriff’s Office to help him.

Then there is the question as to why Commissioner Couch has been allowed to only pay 24% assessed property taxes when every other state resident pays 60%? We attempted to contact Commissioner Couch by telephone and by e-mail for his response to our questions before publishing this story. At this time he has not replied.

Privileges That Violate State Tax Law

According to county tax records and other documents, Couch’s former business, A.W. Couch Inc owes $16,582.43 in back taxes for 2009 and 2010 that are tied directly to his ownership in a Hertz car rental business located at 1700 St Mary’s Ave. At that time, he was in business with his mother, Jane Couch who was listed as Vice President. (records linked below) The Secretary of States office also lists that same location for Couch’s current business “D.C. Fleet Sales Inc.” Couch is the corporation President. This business is listed as a Hertz Car and Penske Truck Rental business.

We obtained a December 16, 2011 letter from Parkersburg Attorney Andrew Woofter III who acts as special counsel to both the Wood County Sheriff and the County Commission in delinquent tax matters. In this letter, Woofter refers to Blair Couch’s earlier request to be allowed to make monthly payments of $200 to the tax department until the delinquent $16,582.43 is paid off. Woofter clearly states in this letter to Couch that, “I have advised you that, by State law, the Sheriff cannot accept partial payments of any tax bill.”

But, Woofter went on to write that he had allegedly obtained permission from the Sheriff’s Tax Office that would allow him (Woofter) to accept the $200 a month payment and hold it in "my  trust account until there are sufficient funds to pay each tax ticket." At that rate, with interest each month of $108.39, it would take approximately 12 years to pay off the delinquent taxes because only $91.61 of the $200 a month should go towards the principal debt.

Is this not an attempt by Blair Couch to use his influence and position as county commission president to circumvent state tax law? No other resident in Wood County could pay his or her delinquent taxes that way. According to the Wood County Sheriff, the Woofter letter was discussed by the county prosecutor and sheriff's tax office but never approved to his knowledge. Couch was never afforded any special treatment by Sheriff Sandy.

In that same letter, Couch states that he is not responsible for the $16,582.43 back taxes owed but “volunteered” to pay them. He claims A.W. Couch Inc no longer exists and that there were no assets remaining and that the company never owned any property. But, records we obtained show his mother, Jane Couch, who was also the Vice President of A.W. Couch, is the owner of the property located at 1700 St. Mary’s Ave and has been since 2000 when she obtained it from her husband David A. Couch. Its current assessed value is $124,200.

You can find this by searching Wood County Taxes online under the name of Jane Couch or David Couch on the first page of the deed book 1018 at page 447. It is also our understanding that Jane Couch rented the property back to A.W. Couch Inc while being its Vice President. And now, rents it to her son’s (Blair Couch) company D.C. Fleet Sales Inc. 

As far as his claiming he is not responsible for the back taxes, one would think that as the former President of that now defunct company, he and any other corporate officers have a degree of ownership for shared responsibility of all the company’s debts. Including personal business taxes. How much money was paid in rent to the Couch’s during 2009 & 2010 while the company was defaulting instead of paying their obligations, such as the delinquent county taxes? Also, Blair Couch, while president of A.W. Couch Inc was paying himself a salary with the dollars that were owed to the county for taxes in 2009-2010.

As of this date, records still show the $16,582.43 as delinquent. And they most likely will until the debt is paid off in full.

Records show that he also purchased several pieces of land adjacent to the 1700 St. Mary's Ave business. One was from the "Urban Renewal Board" in 2005 for only $6,000. That property is located at 817 17th Street Parkersburg. In 2011, the county only assessed that piece of property at $1,440. If a purchase price is a reasonable gauge of market value, and if assessed value is 60% of actual value, that would make this piece of property worth $3600, not $1440.

Ironically, and possibly a conflict of interest, he also sits on the board of equalization to set assessed property values. Which raises yet another question, how do you, as a county resident, get your property assessed at 24% of value instead of 60% like the rest of the people in West Virginia?

United Bank Forgives & Forgets Blair Couch Defaulted Loan

According to public documents at the Secretary of States Office (SOS), United Bank officers James Hayhurst and Steve Wilson signed documents providing Couch a line of credit for $65,000 using his Vienna WV home as collateral in a second mortgage. This was after United also loaned him $350,000 to purchase that same home in 2003. Records indicate he defaulted on that line of credit since being elected to the county commission.

There is no record of United seeking any type of claim, lien or civil judgement for their loss. The note is signed by David Blair Couch and his wife Kimberly L. Couch, Book 1315, page 586. The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) on file with the Secretary of State’s Office filed by United Bank to secure their financial interest is 20030030909382, and the account number is 20304857. SOS records only shows that it was filed on June 30, 2003 and lapsed on June 30, 2009.

Coincidentally, the Sheriffs Tax Office uses United Bank as one of their depositories for county funds, which is approximately $4 million. Couch and the other county commissioners annually approve the list of banks that can be used.

Personal Property Tax Liens

There are records in the Wood County Clerks Office showing at least two tax liens that have been filed against David B. and Kimberly Couch dating back to 2009 on their home in Vienna. They were paid after the liens were attached.

 In Closing

At this point, the biggest issue facing voters this election should be, can Blair Couch effectively run the counties business which includes the financial, purchasing, budgeting and county depositories of money since it is fairly evident he cant adequately run his own personal finances or pay taxes due.

Commission President Couch has been dodging $16,582.43 in back taxes on his former business that went under.  And then, tries to sneak in and cut a special deal with the Sheriff’s Tax Division in an election year so that the public won’t find out. A deal that would circumvent state law because it is illegal to take partial payments on any delinquent tax debt.

Combine that with a two time history of delinquency on his personal income tax, delinquency on his state B & O tax, personal and business default on his obligations to United Bank and the suspicion as to what happened to the business assets which he says he did not own. Unspecified rent payments to his mother who was an officer in the same now defunct company while owning the property.

Not to mention only paying 24% of the assessed value of other property he owns instead of 60% like everyone else. Yes, there are a lot of unanswered questions that Commissioner Couch has yet to answer.

What also needs to also be asked and answered is why the news staff at the Parkersburg Newspaper, who has to be aware of these problems, hasn’t addressed them.  Any other time, a scandal like this would be on their front page. They did a story on Commissioner Steve Gainer (linked below) back in March of this year when he lawfully licensed his Florida motor home at his Florida second residence. That involved mere pennies in avoided property taxes as compared to the thousands that Commissioner Couch totally dodged when he was president of A.W. Couch, Inc.

Note: Anyone wishing a copy of the December 2011 letter from Attorney Andrew Woofter III to Blair Couch can e-mail us for a copy at WestVirginiaNews@gmail.com or you can go to the Wood County WV Tax Office and ask the Chief Tax Deputy or Staff for a copy.

End of Story…

Jack Swint-Publisher
West Virginia News
E-Mail:  WestVirginiaNews@gmail.com
Website: http://WVNewsOnline.com
Blog: http://WestVirginiaNews.blogspot.com
Twitter:  @WVNewsOnline
LinkedIn: Jack Swint


Commissioner Blair Couch:

SOS Records On A.W. Couch Inc: 

SOS Records On D C Fleet Sales In:

Steve Gainer Story:


Anonymous said...

I know Blair Couch and his familiy. He is a good person ...it is shameful that his opponent has taken the low road to smear a good familiy name in Wood County. Of course Harry is from Kanawaha County...wish he would stay there.

Anonymous said...

I don't think "Harry" had anything to do with this story as stated above. The facts are there and on the record. The truth is not smearing. We have known for years that Blair Couch has gotten special treatment because of his name and position in the County. This is just the top level of the dirt.

I read the letter by Andrew Woofter to Couch. It happened just like the story details. Blair tried to "circumvent" the law and got caught. The Sheriff and Woofter should also be held accountable for allowing it.

Blair Couch has soiled the family name.

JR In Wood County said...

Good Story! Corruption in politics is alive and well in Wood County. And why hasn't the local media already exposed this? They know about it.

Anonymous said...

Commissioner Couch needs to pay up on the $16,000 in back taxes. He has the money to do so. Mainstream media should've been all over this!!!!! Must be another favor to keep him out of trouble.

Karma finally caught up Blair

Randy said...

LMAO I love this, about time.

Anonymous said...

Heres something else you all need to look into. Whats David Blair Couch's connection with the company MID-OHIO VALLEY AREA DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION. And another called West Virginia Drug Testing Laboratories, Inc

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