Two of the three candidates on the ballot in the race for mayor of Laurel have conceded they faced personal financial problems ranging from an income tax dispute and a property lien to a home foreclosure.
Over the weekend, Patch readers took to the to discuss court records indicating that mayoral candidate Mike Sarich had a more than $52,000 lien placed against his Laurel home earlier this year and fellow candidate Valerie Cunningham was facing foreclosure on her home.
Sarich told Laurel Patch that the dispute was a years-long disagreement with the state over income taxes.
According to court records, Sarich, who has previously owned or managed pool companies, also had a lien totaling more than $2,000 placed against him and his affiliate, Terrapin Aquatics. The lien was settled in May of 2009. Court records also indicate a lien judgment against Sarich and his McHale Aquatics company that was settled in 2007.
Sarich said the $52,000 lien against his home was settled for less than $3,000 in May of this year.
“It’s a tax situation that has been settled,” Sarich said. “It was more convenient, rather than fight it, to settle for a very small amount.”
Sarich said the incident arose from an accounting error but that he takes full responsibility.
“I regret that it got out of hand,” he said. “This is the exact same thing that happens to millions of Americans each year. It’s not unique.”
Cunningham, too, said that she is facing an issue that millions are facing. She confirmed that she is undergoing foreclosure mediation in regard to her home in the Villages at Wellington neighborhood.
According to court records, Cunningham has owed more than $5,600 in a lien judgment to the state since April of this year.
“My home is currently in foreclosure mediation," she said in a statement. "Unfortunately, this situation is too very common for many families in our city, state and country. I am quite sure that my own mediation will be successful.”
Cunningham has made foreclosure prevention and mediation one of her campaign platforms.
Prince George’s County has the highest foreclosure rate in the state, according to a report by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. According to the same report, Laurel has some of the highest foreclosure rates in the county, with 67 foreclosures during the second quarter of this year.
Cunningham's home was valued at more than $500,000 when she purchased it seven years ago. As of this year, its value has plummeted to just over $381,000.
"A lot of people suffer in silence. It's nothing to be ashamed of," she said. “Anyone in the political arena that would take these financial hard times and attempt to make political gain on the backs of struggling families does not deserve high political office.”