Zurik: Tax commissioner resigns after FOX 8 probe

Zurik: Tax commissioner resigns after FOX 8 probe
Updated: Nov. 10, 2016 at 10:10 PM CST
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Jimmie Thorns resigned from the Louisiana Tax Commission Thursday
Jimmie Thorns resigned from the Louisiana Tax Commission Thursday

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A New Orleans businessman who hasn't paid property taxes in 30 years has resigned from the Louisiana Tax Commission. That move follows a FOX 8 investigation that uncovered the taxman's own tax debt.

Jimmie Thorns' business, Jim Thorns Inc, owns a property on North Claiborne Avenue and, since acquiring it in the 1980's, hasn't paid a penny in property taxes.  The current outstanding bill is $140,000.

Go. John Bel Edwards appointed Thorns to the Louisiana Tax Commission, which ensures fair, accurate and uniform property taxation.  Essentially it has the final say on how much you pay in property taxes.

"Why should he be on this committee?" asked Tulane law professor Joel Friedman in a recent interview. "I mean, is it unlawful for him to be on the commission? No. But is it good government for the governor to choose someone like this?

The Edwards administration sent this statement to FOX 8 Thursday afternoon:

Upon learning of Mr. Thorns previous tax avoidance issues, Gov. Edwards immediately began a review of his appointment.  Prior to making any appointments, applicants undergo thorough background checks and reviews by the Louisiana Department of Revenue to avoid any issues. Since Mr. Thorns' issues involve property tax avoidance with the City of New Orleans from an entity he owned that filed for bankruptcy decades ago, we were not aware of it and he did not disclose the information. However, after discussing the matter with Mr. Thorns, Gov. Edwards immediately asked for his resignation from the commission which became effective immediately.  He is no longer a member of the commission.

"To have paid no taxes on a small piece of property - where the tax is not that large, but has now a huge bill… It can't be unintentional," Friedman said. "One year could be a mistake; 30 years is a concerted decision not to pay real estate taxes."

After seeing Wednesday night's report, the governor says, he asked Thorns to resign. Thorns submitted his resignation late Thursday afternoon, ending a nine-month run on one of the state's most powerful and important boards.

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