BROOKLYN — Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez was hit with a $16,000 warrant in 2014 after running up a state and federal tax debt that took him two years to pay off, according to tax documents.
Gonzalez, who is running to keep the office in the upcoming fall election, said the back taxes were a result of a settlement on a credit card debt that he paid off in 2012, resulting in an increase in reported income.
The tax on that extra income was too much for Gonzalez, who currently earns $198,000 a year, to resolve in one year, and the DA said he took it upon himself to set up a payment plan to resolve the debt.
The tax warrant, which was issued in 2014, was filed against him despite his effort to make good on his debt, the DA's campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said.
The final payment was made in May 2016 after deceased District Attorney Kenneth Thompson was diagnosed with cancer, according to state tax records provided by Gonzalez.
The fact that the debt was resolved as Thompson's health started to decline is merely coincidental, Smith said.
The spokeswoman said she did not know the amount of the original debt, but in the acting-DA's Conflicts of Interest Board filing, he listed the amount as between $5,000 and $49,999.99.
"While Eric Gonzalez and his wife were expecting their third child, and he was supporting his family on a civil servant salary, the Gonzalez family — like many families across New York — incurred consumer debt to cover family expenses," she said.
The COIB disclosure form provided by the Gonzalez says the debt was satisfied in May 2016. The NY Department of State record shows the lien was lifted in July of that year.
Gonzalez's account of his tax debt, however, stands in contrast to how the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance said it normally handles tax debtors.
"Long before the tax debt gets to the warrant stage, we make an attempt resolve the tax debt," spokesman James Gazzale said. He added that his office sends letters, makes calls and sometimes pays the tax delinquent a visit.
"We're trying to talk to them and have a dialogue with them throughout the entire process," he said, speaking generally about tax debtors. "We don't just hit them with a warrant."
"If our attempts are blatantly ignored, we'll move ahead with the warrant process," he added.
A tax warrant — a legal judgment against a taxpayer which creates a lien — is an escalation of the state's enforcement process, according to Gazzale.
"The filing of a tax warrant is the first step in civil enforcement before seizing assets through levy, wage garnishment or property seizure," he said. "We don't want this to happen. Ideally, everything would be remitted to us voluntarily."
Thompson was diagnosed with colon cancer in April 2016 and continued to be active in the office throughout his treatment up to a couple of weeks before his death, according to a spokesman.
Gonzalez, who ran the office in his absence, was appointed acting-prosecutor after Thompson died Oct. 9, 2016.
The appointed prosecutor announced his candidacy in late fall of 2016 and raised more than $800,000 as of January.
UPDATE: After publication of the story, the state Department of Taxation and Finance said that it is possible that the lien was filed after Gonzalez set up a payment plan.
“In certain circumstances, a warrant may be filed when an Installment Payment Agreement is initiated. For example, the length of the term of the IPA, or in some cases a larger outstanding debt could cause us to file a warrant at the time an IPA begins," Gazzale said, he would not say if that applied in the DA's case.