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News Maryland Sun Investigates

Author Wes Moore got undeserved tax breaks

Baltimore resident Wes Moore has a standout resume. He's a best-selling author, Rhodes scholar and TV show host, and his rising public profile is fueling speculation he may be eyeing a run for political office.

But like many of his fellow city residents, Moore, 34, has been receiving homestead property tax credits he wasn’t entitled to. He now owes back taxes to the City of Baltimore.

In 2011, an investigation by The Baltimore Sun documented how hundreds of city homeowners were improperly receiving the credits on second homes or rentals. Many said they did not know they were getting the discount or didn't realize only owner-occupied homes qualified. There’s no formal mechanism to notify the state that you no longer live in a home you own.

Homestead troubles have become almost a rite of passage for prominent people: Frank M. Conaway Sr., clerk of the Baltimore Circuit Court, got discounts on two homes. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and her husband simultaneously received two credits.

Moore, who says he has no plan to run for office, bought a rowhouse in Riverside in 2006. He and his wife Dawn moved out in late 2008, yet since then the city has knocked $1,700 off the yearly tax bills, including a $63 discount this year for owner-occupants.

Moore told The Sun he wasn’t aware of any issues with the home’s taxes. "We would never willingly try to receive a credit for something we did not earn or wasn’t justified," he said. "We really just did not know."

Dawn Moore, a former top aide to Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, contacted the state assessments department shortly after The Sun asked about the credits. She asked an official by email “what the next steps will be in order to pay back the money owed.” Once the state pulls the credits, she was told, the city will send a revised bill.

The Moores wanted to pay immediately, said the couple’s real estate agent, Anne Henslee. That’s what Khalil Zaied, Rawlings-Blake’s deputy chief of operations, did in April after The Sun learned he’d gotten $14,000 in credits on a rental. Dawn Moore was told to wait for a bill.

Henslee gave The Sun records showing the property in the 1500 block of Riverside Ave. passed a lead paint inspection in February. And she said she helped register the property as a rental with the city, though housing officials said they have no record of that.

Moore, a Johns Hopkins graduate, made a national name with his book, “The Other Wes Moore,” which details the divergent lives of himself and another Maryland boy with the same name.

The Moores moved back to Baltimore last year. They’ve kept the Riverside house as a rental and paid $1.2 million for a home in North Baltimore’s Guilford neighborhood. No homestead worries there: The state has already approved their application for that home.

scalvert@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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