The Oklahoma Tax Commission is after three businesses Tulsa city councilor Blake Ewing has been involved in.
An investigation with our partner The Frontier shows this is just one example of a pattern by the city councilor that dates back years.
The investigation shows that five businesses in which Ewing held an ownership failed to pay about $168,000 in sales taxes since 2010. Those businesses were Legend's Dance Hall, Joe Momma's Pizza, The Fur Shop, The Max Retropub and The Phoenix.
Ewing held a number of dive bar town hall meetings at The Fur Shop. Those meetings were to inform the public about the Vision package, but the state was coming after Ewing to pay taxes on the business for a year prior to the meetings.
When the state shut down The Phoenix this summer, Ewing said he immediately went on a payment plan.
If a business on a payment plan is late or fails to pay the required amount of taxes owed three times, the state can close its doors.
As for the other businesses, Ewing continued to pay partial or full amounts - enough for the state to allow them to remain open.
Ewing produced records showing he still owes about $60,000 in unpaid sales taxes from several businesses.
The city councilor said most of the issues began after the loss of Joe Momma's to the fire - and with that, a lot of the administrative staff.
By the time he personally knew what was going on, he said it was a mess and he has gotten things back on track.
"No one in this world is stupid enough to defraud the tax commission to get away with not paying taxes. If a business owner is going to do something shady it isn’t this,” he said. “All underlying implications of this story are that I'm either too shady to be a city councilor or too sloppy…so sloppy is at least preferable to shady.”
Our partner, The Frontier, has more on this story, including investor questions into insurance money after the fire at Joe Mama's.