1st Ward city councilman Michael Jackson owes approximately $38,000 in property taxes, according to the city.
Jackson owes the city property taxes on his Grand Street restaurant building which he said has been shuttered for regular business due to renovation work being done.
Some of Jackson’s political opponents criticized him for not paying his taxes. “If he owes the city that’s his problem. That’s his responsibility,” said Veronica Ovalles. “Is it fair to the taxpayers? Of course not.”
Ovalles and Jackson were among four people who ran for the 1st Ward council seat in the November special election to fill the unexpired term of disgraced councilman Anthony Davis. She said when Jackson shirks paying his taxes other property owners have to take on additional tax burden.
“Whatever taxes that we owe they will be paid and they will be paid by the next quarter,” said Jackson. “All the taxes will be paid.”
“To serve on the council you have to be fiscally accountable,” said former school board member Corey Teague, who is collecting petitions to run against Jackson in May.
Teague said he was shocked by the amount of money Jackson owed to the city. Jackson also has outstanding liens on the property that resulted from owed taxes, according to the city. The total amount of outstanding liens on the property could not be ascertained.
“Is that why it’s closed?” asked Teague. He said Jackson’s business Jacksonville Restaurant has been closed for some time.
“I’ve closed for regular business because we’re remodeling, re-doing the menu, and recasting our marketing strategy,” said Jackson on Monday. He said the business is not shutting down. He said he is honoring those who have booked the restaurant for events, but is closed for regular business.
Teague said it has been related to him that an event was put on during which the lights went out at the business.
“I wasn’t there when the lights went out. The lights did come back on,” said Jackson. He said a circuit breaker was blown that resulted in the lights suddenly going out. He said his staff did not have access to the fuse box to immediately rectify the outage. “When I got there everything was put in place and that was it,” said the councilman.
Many thought the power was disconnected at the building. When contacted to check whether power has been disconnected due to non-payment at the building, Brooke Houston, a spokeswoman for PSE&G, said she could not provide a customer’s account information.
Jackson’s property located at 325 Grand Street has been on the Passaic County Sheriff’s foreclosure sales list numerous times, according to county records, as Sun National Bank is seeking to foreclose on the councilman. The sale has been adjourned many times by both the bank and Jackson. A new sale date has been set for February 2nd, 2016.
Jackson’s business has faced financial problems that go back a number of years. He defaulted on a $140,000 Paterson Restoration Corporation (PRC) loan that the city provided to him to expand his business just months after signing the promissory note, according to government records.
Jackson also filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but the case was dismissed by a judge in April 2015 at the urging of a trustee, who complained in a motion to the United States Bankruptcy Court judge that the business owner was causing “unreasonable delay in the case” by failing to appear for a hearing within the required time frame, according to court records.
Jackson complained about what he perceives as negative coverage of the city in local online and print news media. He further complained when he hosts charitable events it receives little coverage in the local press while reporters focus on scandals.
Jackson was elected in November of last year to complete what remains of Davis’ term. He said he intends to give out his $40,000 council salary to local organizations contributing to build a better community.
Both Ovalles and Teague said the councilman ought to consider using his council paycheck to pay the city so that other taxpayers do not have to make up for his unpaid taxes.
Manny Martinez, who finished second in the recent special election, declined to comment. He said he has yet to decide whether to contest in the May municipal elections.