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Schaefer friend heads ranking of top 50 delinquent taxpayers

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Comptroller William Donald Schaefer calls Morton Sarubin one of the most delinquent taxpayers in Maryland.

Sarubin calls Schaefer an old friend, a straight arrow and a gentleman.

The former Baltimore developer, once described by Baltimore magazine as "the landlord with a golden touch," tops a list of 50 individuals and corporations with the largest state tax liabilities.

The list, posted on the World Wide Web yesterday, is the second released by Schaefer's office since he instituted the policy this summer in an effort to pressure tax deadbeats to ante up.

Sarubin owes the state $850,250 in individual taxes - more than four times as much as the No. 2 delinquent on the list, according to the comptroller's office.

Sarubin, 76, said he wishes Schaefer hadn't put out such a list. "I'm angry and upset, too," he said. "I don't think there's a need for it."

But Schaefer, who said he considers Sarubin a friend and a "good guy," said he couldn't very well play favorites.

"That's the way the cookie crumbles," Schaefer said. "If he's on the list, he's on the list."

From the 1960s until the early 1990s, Sarubin was one of Baltimore's most active and politically well-connected developers - carrying out such high-visibility projects as the renovation of the Beethoven Apartments and the Peabody Court Hotel.

Sarubin, who noted that he's out of the development business, said his tax liability is the result of some out-of-state development ventures that failed during the commercial real estate crash of the late 1980s. He said his attorney is negotiating with the state to resolve the tax claim. Sarubin said that he isn't broke, but that the tax obligation is more than he can pay.

He said he didn't try to get his name removed from the list because he knows Schaefer is "straight as an arrow."

"If I had any influence with Don Schaefer, I would have gone to him and said, 'Stop it,'" Sarubin said. "I didn't even bother to call to ask him because I knew what the answer would be."

Schaefer said the first list, posted in June, did not have much effect in squeezing payments out of those taxpayers, whom he described as "very tough" cases. But he said it had been successful in drawing payments from people who wanted to avoid being included on the latest list.

The comptroller said his first priority is not individuals with income tax liabilities, but businesses that have failed to pay sales and withholding taxes.

"That's money that belongs to the people," Schaefer said.

The list is found on the Web site www.comp.state.md.us/.

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