The Oklahoma Tax Commission has come down on Tulsa city councilor Blake Ewing for failing to pay state taxes on three businesses he owns downtown.
The businesses -- all bars in the Blue Dome District – still are open.
The taxes Ewing is accused of not paying are funds meant to help support the city.
The Max Retropub, The Fur Shop and Legends Dance Hall and Saloon -- all popular Tulsa bars owned by Ewing.
The Oklahoma Tax Commission says those businesses failed to pay thousands of dollars in sales and mixed beverage taxes over the past seven months.
They're known as trust taxes.
“The business is keeping that in trust for the state and that's so important especially for local communities,” OTC’s Paula Ross said.
Paula Ross with the commission says the money is never for businesses to keep.
It's supposed to be paid to the state each month so the state can send that money back to the city where it was generated.
“In turn, you're really paying for your community,” Ross said.
The money helps pay to run the city – things like police, fire and city street maintenance.
Court documents show Ewing's bars failed to pay $80,000 in taxes and now owe more than $16,000 in penalties.
Ewing says it's been a tumultuous time for his company since a fire destroyed one of his restaurants. He said this in a statement:
"The time since the fire at Joe Momma's has been a tumultuous one for our company. We've lost valuable and long-tenured staff and have done our best to keep things afloat as we've worked to recover from the loss and sell off some of the businesses. During that process of transition, we had some regrettable administrative lapses that resulted in our current predicament. We are working with the tax commission to resolve any issues. Our businesses pay nearly a half a million dollars in sales taxes each year. This issue is relatively minor and will be easily resolved. I take full responsibility for these obligations and will see to it that all issues are rectified quickly. "
The tax commission confirmed that Ewing is working with them. It says it usually does everything it can to keep from having to close businesses, because the sales they generate are so important to our communities.