A local political action committee that has endorsed incumbent Karen DeLuccie and write-in candidate Matt Medley for two Independence City Council at-large spots says it did not endorse candidate Mike Huff for the upcoming election because of fiscal misgivings as well as issues raised in a performance management review of Independence Power & Light.
Huff, who retired in 2017 from IPL as electric distribution manager, says he has recovered from a 2010 bankruptcy filing and that the back taxes taxes paid at the beginning of this year were owed and paid by his son Nicholas.
Jackson County property tax records show a payment of $14,655.09 from Mike and Nicholas Huff on Jan. 7, 2018, covering taxes for 2015-17 mostly for properties in their names and others owned by Nicholas. The PAC Citizens for Effective Leadership points out the delinquent taxes were paid several weeks after Mike Huff declared his candidacy, and it also noted Huff's salary of $162,000 in 2016 – eighth highest among city employees.
Independence voters will vote April 3 for two candidates among DeLuccie, Medley, Huff and Brice Stewart. Citizens for Effective Leadership says the delinquent taxes and bankruptcy filing, weighed against his salary, make Huff not ideal to decide on city financial matters.
The elder Huff said that for the properties in their two names, his son is the owner for all intents and purposes and Mike's name is listed for technical purposes. The law allows for up to three years of payments, Huff points out, and for properties that are his own it is a different story, he claims.
“My name is attached (on payments) because of the W-2; he's the landlord,” Huff said. “It's strictly a bank issue. All of mine are mortgaged and escrowed; all my houses are paid by the mortgage company. His banks required my name.”
County tax records show properties in Mike Huff's name had taxes paid each year.
Regarding his salary, Huff says his base salary was about $128,000 – the difference coming from federal reimbursement after IPL, for whom he started as a lineman and worked 34 years, was sent to help power recovery projects outside of the metro region.
“They have the best,” he said of the city and IPL's crew members, “and they pay for the best.”
Huff acknowledged that he filed for bankruptcy after being a overextended on rental properties when the Great Recession hit. He also had trouble collecting rent from tenants, he said. Court records show Huff defaulted on multiple rental houses and dating back to 1995 and has filed more than a dozen landlord complaints against tenants, with varying results.
“When the market crashed, I had a lot of issues, and my attorney advised me that I should file, as a way to work out of it,” Huff said. “I was petrified.”
Huff said he was allowed to keep some houses and his credit cards and has paid back his creditors.
“Ever since then, I've been a lot smarter and didn't get myself in that situation,” Huff said. “I'm not ashamed about it, a lot of people had that happen to them.”
Regarding last year's outside management performance review of IPL, which said it identified significant organizational issues including problems with handling complaints of harassment, discrimination and employee discipline, Huff insisted the area of IPL under his watch couldn't have been a source of such issues.
“My employees are union, which means no favoritism,” Huff said. “I couldn't have frustrations in my unit, or I'd have been fired.”
Huff said it's too bad his son's name has been brought up during the campaigns when he's not the one running for office, and as a generally positive person he's wanted to avoid negative responses to the claims against him.
He insisted his time with IPL and concern for the city makes him the top candidate for the April 3 election, and as a generally positive person he has wanted to avoid “slinging mud” in response to claims against him.
“The city has taken good care of me, and I've learned so much,” he said. “I know how the city operates, and I hope to be more transparent.”
MEDLEY RETURNS CONTRIBUTION: City Council write-in candidate Matt Medley earlier this month returned a $500 campaign contribution following a Missouri Ethics Commission complaint filed against him regarding that donation.
The contribution, listed in Medley 40-day-before-election campaign report, came from International Association of Fire Fighters Local 781, Independence's union. But a recent amendment to Missouri state law prohibits contributions directly from corporations or unions. Rather, such entities must form a political action committee, or PAC, to give out campaign contributions.
The Ethics Commission complaint was filed by local attorney John Carnes, who is the only contributor toward Taxpayers For Accountability, a PAC set up to support Huff.
Medley said that two hours after he received a call from the Ethics Commission about the complaint – which had also been sent in the mail a couple days earlier – he refunded the money and later sent the necessary paperwork to the commission to get rid of the infraction. An amended 40-day report has since been filed with the commission.
Medley added that he was “honored for the endorsement” of the firefighters, even if he had to return the money.