|By Bruce Daniels, Albuquerque Journal,
N.M.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 15, 2009 - The town of Taos is seeking to recoup nearly $300,000 in unpaid lodgers taxes from the Best Western Kachina Lodge hotel that a former town attorney had negotiated down to $11,250, The Taos News reported.
Auditors flagged the past-due taxes during a recent examination of the town's books, and the town's legal staff has determined that former Town Attorney Renee Barela-Gutierrez's actions violated state law, The News said.
Barela-Gutierrez and the hotel's owners were unavailable for comment, but Town Manager Daniel Miera told The News that the town has filed suit seeking the allegedly unpaid taxes in an effort to "clean up the way we've always done things."
The suit, filed March 31, seeks lodgers taxes due from 2002 to 2005 totaling $129,000, but with penalties and interest added comes to $293,000, and also seeks an additional $72,000 in past-due taxes, penalties and interest for the years 2006 and 2007, The News said.
The lawsuit also claims that Barela-Gutierrez "had no authority to bind the town in matters not involving litigation" and that the state Constitution prohibits any municipality from diminishing tax obligations, according to the paper.
"In the past, we negotiated settlements," Miera told The News. "But it's clearly against the law to do that for taxes that are owed to the municipality. In a sense, we are going against ourselves, but we have to."
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