STATE REP RACE: Judy O’Connell Addresses Allegations Of Federal Tax Liens On Her Home

WILMINGTON, MA – Running for elected office is certainly not easy.  Candidates face intense public scrutiny and can often find themselves the victims of dirty politics, mudslinging, and character assassination.  Sometimes allegations levied against candidates turn out to be accurate, sometimes they’re flat out false, and sometimes the truth lies somewhere in the gray middle.

State Representative hopeful Judy O’Connell (D-Wilmington) knows the rough and tumble world of local politics firsthand, having recently served six years on the Wilmington Board of Selectmen and three years on the Wilmington School Committee. O’Connell not only ran her three successful campaigns over the past 10+ years, but she also played influential roles in the prevailing Town Election and/or Town Meeting efforts involving the new high school, the Yentile Farm Recreational Facility and the Ristuccia Arena over that time.

Last week, an anonymous letter was purportedly sent to the Wilmington AppleLowell SunWilmington Patch, Tewksbury Patch, Your Tewksbury Today, and the Wilmington/Tewksbury Town Crier. Wilmington Apple received the letter on Tuesday, which listed the aforementioned news outlets as also having been sent the letter (cc’ed).

The letter alleged that Ms. O’Connell currently has two federal tax liens on her Wilmington home for failure to pay her federal taxes in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.  Enclosed with the letter were copies of two Notices of Federal Tax Liens (public documents) which verified the author’s assertion that liens existed. Wilmington Apple independently confirmed the validity of the lien documents.

“I find it appalling for anyone seeking public office to not pay her taxes while seeking elected office,” reads part of the letter. “How can the voters expect Ms. O’Connell to be trusted with managing state funds when she can’t manage her personal finances?”

The Response From Judy O’Connell

Upon receipt of the letter, Wilmington Apple immediately reached out to Ms. O’Connell’s campaign to offer her an opportunity to share her side of the story.

Ms. O’Connell provided the following statement:

This week I was asked by different media outlets to respond to a question that was raised anonymously by someone who is concerned about the fact that my home is the subject to two federal income tax liens. These liens are a matter of public record. While I do not relish the thought of certain personal issues becoming the subject of public discussion, I understand and respect that a resident, even anonymously, has a right to ask these questions. I also welcome the opportunity to share my story.

I have many blessings, and I count them each day. What I have not been blessed with, however, is perfect health. For nearly fifteen years now, I have battled Crohn’s disease.

For those who are not familiar with the disease, Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease that attacks the digestive tract. For many years starting in 2004, I was hospitalized for complications. The period 2010 through 2015 was particularly difficult, during which time I was hospitalized 8 to 10 times. In 2014, I accepted the advice of my medical team and underwent a major, invasive procedure. Following the surgery, I began a course of treatment that included regular IV infusions. The good news is that since 2015, my condition and overall health has improved dramatically, and I have not had any recurrence of the disease. The doctors inform me that I am “in remission.” The bad news is that for a few years, my condition kept me out of work a lot, and as a single, self-employed head of household, the financial impact was unavoidable.

The fact that financial strain has been unavoidable does not mean that it is irreparable. To the contrary, I have been tackling this situation the same way that I tackle every other obstacle: honestly, with determination and conviction. I have been working my way out of this situation, and I will continue to do so. I am not ashamed of experiencing setbacks. Most people do. I do not feel sorry for myself. In terms of medical problems, all too many people are a lot worse off than I.

I want people to be clear that I have always filed my tax returns. I have always acknowledged what I owe. I am not evading the obligation, and I knew this issue was a matter of public record before deciding to run for this election. I have been working toward wiping out this debt, and that is exactly what I will do. In the meantime, the liens will remain on my property until the debt is paid, or I sell my home, whichever comes first. I made a conscious decision not to consider any solutions which might enable me to avoid this obligation.

So, how did this situation relate to my candidacy for State Representative? I hope and believe that it reveals something about my principles, and the way I deal with adversity. As Charles R. Swindoll once said, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” Like many residents of the District, I have learned that at times life can be tough, but if you take your problems head-on, stick to your principles and continue moving forward, things have a way of working out.

I hope this answers any questions that you have. Thank you again for the opportunity to share this message with the residents of Wilmington and Tewksbury.

Most sincerely,

Judy O’Connell

The Response From Other 19th Middlesex State Rep Candidates

Wilmington Apple reached out to the other Republican and Democratic candidates in the race for comment.

“I find this entire story very distasteful. Judy O’Connell has given so much to the community and during a time when she has had health issues which caused her a financial burden. This is the type of mudslinging that keeps good people from running for public office,” responded Mark Kratman (D-Tewksbury).“Judy should be applauded for working hard to pay off her debt while taking care of her family and still giving so much of her time to make the community a better place for all.”

“Was this information obtained from another candidate? If so, they should be the one bringing their concerns forward rather than sending information to the Wilmington Apple or any other news agency,” continued Kratman.“I believe the residents would much rather hear about the issues facing both Tewksbury and Wilmington. Only by working together with respect for each other are we going to solve the issues facing our community.”

“I’m just happy to hear that Judy is doing well and has just about recovered, and I hope that she continues to do so,” added Dave Robertson (D-Tewksbury). “I have no comment on her financial situation.”

No other candidate chose to offer comment.

More Dirty Politics?  

On a separate, but related note, the O’Connell campaign recently took to social media to reveal that an increasing number of their lawn signs in both communities were being stolen or vandalized.

“The Committee for Judy O’Connell for State Representative for the 19th Middlesex District is sharing that there have been multiple signs in both Wilmington and Tewksbury that have either been stolen or vandalized,” read the announcement.“If your sign has been taken or dismantled, please let us know and we will gladly replace it. Other appropriate action with the local authorities is in process. Thank you for your continued support!”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Slippery Slope Of Anonymous Letters

Wilmington Apple will continue its practice of not publishing letters where the author’s identity is unknown. The author is allowed to remain anonymous to the reader, but not to the editor.

Wilmington Apple generally receives more than a dozen tips each week regarding all sorts of stories.  (Believe me, all sorts.) On rare occasions, the communication will be anonymous. While Wilmington Apple is not a particular fan of anonymous letters, if the information within the letter is found to be credible (independently verified, and often double sourced, at a minimum), pertains to a topic that is fit for public consumption, and rises to a level of “newsworthiness,” Wilmington Apple will generally pursue the story.

In this particular case, it is troubling to not know the identity of the author, his or her motives, and whether or not he or she is affiliated with a competitor’s campaign. That said, the letter’s claims of the existence of liens did check out, candidates’ tax payment histories are widely considered “fair game,” and voters do have a right to know about such issues before casting their votes. Ms. O’Connell, to her credit, disclosed more than most in her position probably would have in her attempt to explain the circumstances surrounding her tax payment history.  The irony that a candidate winds up revealing so much in response to an anonymous letter is not lost on me.

NOTE: Revisions/clarifications in red. (UPDATE: 8:45am)

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11 thoughts

  1. Dirty politics at its finest.

    I wish the news would simply throw it back in the face of the anonymous sources and tell them there will be an embargo on reporting if the little cockroaches from the other campaign(s) don’t come out.

    I wasn’t going to vote for O’Connell but now may – just to spit back in the eye of the scumbags who want to win at any cost.

    I commend O’Connell for her struggle with Crohn’s and wish her well.

    And to the anonymous sources – I apologize to cockroaches for comparing them to you.

  2. I hope the other candidates didnt purposely submit this info in hope of making themselves look better in their future endeavors. Just to get votes would be a shame.

  3. I am amazed by the responses to this news. We all make mistakes and it is true, it matters how we handle them. However, when this type of information comes out, why is it called mud-slinging and dirty politics? While I am sorry for peoples’ hardships, we all have them, paying your federal taxes in a timely manner and voting where you live seem to be fairly reasonable minimum standards for someone running for public office. I am trying to figure out how its mud-slinging if someone brings to light a candidate’s failure to follow basic laws. It appears to defer the blame to the person who brings it to light, instead of placing the blame on the person who committed the illegal activity. Its backwards. If you run for public office, you should expect scrutiny. This isn’t a fun and games drinking party. It would be nice to have people in public office who make decisions and act while following the law, at a minimum… And, if they aren’t able to follow the law for some reason, that they correct the situation as soon as possible, when they are able to work and correct things – not let it go on for years and years, because its convenient. IS this too much to ask? If you think its mud-slinging, so be it. I don’t personally know any candidates, but its time to get real. The issues are meaningless if you don’t recognize the need to keep the basic laws that we all have to follow.

    Let the slamming begin…

  4. Sue, she filed her taxes and is in process of paying off the debt ( which is more than we can say about our current president)

    When someone is severely ill, which it appears MS O’Connell was for a period of time, it can cause financial strain ( ie they’re not working because of illness, so they can’t can’t pay their month to month bills, plus medical care, plus federal and state taxes) This is just another reason for Medicare for all.

    And it’s mudslinging because whoever brought it to the attention of the media did it anonymously. Which is a real jackass move. If you lack the courage of your convictions to sign your name to something like this, well, it says more about your character than hers

  5. My comments are about calling this mudslinging and dirty politics. If someone brings out information that pertains to the character of a candidate, then the response is that its mudslinging- that doesn’t resolve the topic. It defers the blame onto the person who called it out, anonymous or not. I already noted that this person is correcting this in a timely manner, Also, my character isn’t part of this conversation. I did not submit an anonymous letter of any kind about this or anything else. I only wonder why bringing these things to light is called dirty politics, and mudslinging.

    1. Bringing out a PUBLIC RECORD for a lien that pertains to a health issue that directly correlated to financial hardship and medical bills for a single, self-employed head of household doesn’t pertain to a person’s character. Being sick is not something a person chooses and it can do a job on a person’s life and their finances. If it was me I would have just couched it up and called it a day. I think Lizzebeth’s point is just ask the woman directly and give her an opportunity to respond directly rather than hiding behind a letter that you go right to the press with to smear the girl. I don’t know Judy, but one of my close buddy’s does and has for years and he said she is the real deal and as hardworking as they come. He also said she has a heart of gold and the people would be lucky to have her. I can’t vote for her so I have no horse in this race, but bringing something to light that was a matter of public record the whole time is hardly revealing some big secret. The statement she made was more than what most would offer and it was confirmed she is addressing it and has been. I give her credit for owning her obligation and taking responsibility. I see this as a non-issue and hope the voters do too.

    2. Because the cockroach that did it – did it anonymously with the intent of hurting her campaign.

      That is classic mudslinging – people only remember the mud, not the rational explanation.

      Unfortunately people are easily swayed by this sort of attack.

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