Slip-Up on Taxes

Boat owners get to evade

Galveston County is getting screwed out of about $33,000 in property taxes from a League City marina. The county knows about it, but doesn't seem to care.

On the Wharf Marina Web site, it says plain as day (if you don't take into account spelling and grammatical errors) that wet slip owners "must pay property tax on there respective slip (Galveston County tax; League City tax; Clear Lake School [District] tax) it's about 100.00 a year."

After hearing some rumors around the docks, one marina resident did some checking and was shocked at what he found out from the county: A bunch of people haven't paid squat in years.

"I don't understand how the appraisal district hasn't reacted in 25 years," the resident tells Hair Balls. "I was in high school the last time some of those people paid taxes."

The people who haven't paid include the marina board president, Chuck Clements, and vice president, James Grafton, who owe $3,008 and $619, respectively. The Wharf at Clear Lake Association owes about $4,600 on five slips.

The slips are privately owned, not rented, and the tax figure is based on the land that's under water. The county appraises the slips on an average of about $2,500, but according to the marina's Web site, slips can sell for between $10,000 and $25,000.

Hair Balls called the Galveston County tax office, where an employee told us that the county was aware of the uncollected money.

"We can't hold them down and make them write us our checks," says the employee, who wished to remain anonymous until Cheryl Johnson, the Galveston County Tax Assessor/Collector, could give us an official explanation. "We send out letters to these people continually; they're not special treatment. They have just chosen not to pay their taxes and we will get to them." (After 20 years, we bet they're shaking in their boots.)

Galveston County contracts with the law firm Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP, which also collects for the City of Houston, Harris County and HISD.

Linebarger spokesman Joe Householder says in an e-mail to Hair Balls that the firm is filing lawsuits against several of the delinquent slip owners, but he didn't specify which owners.

He noted "certain accounts are not given high priority because it is not in the economic best interest of our client." Paul Knight

Sex-Change Cop Heads Back to Spotlight

The nominees for Grand Marshal of the Pride Parade were announced recently and Houston Police Officer Julia Christina Oliver was among the women named. That couldn't have happened two years ago when Oliver was still a male.

In 2006, Oliver, who had been on the force for more than 25 years, was beginning to make the transition from male to female and had just started hormone therapy. She had plans to tell her superiors, of course, but not just yet.

Those plans were put on fast-forward when someone tried to blackmail her.

"I had somebody want $10,000 or they were going to tell the police department. So I went in and told them myself the next day, rather than let somebody blackmail me," Oliver tells Hair Balls. "My captain was very supportive. He made an effort to explain what was going on in my life to the other officers, and we suspect somebody walked out of that meeting and called Channel 2 News. The next morning, 9 o'clock, there they were at my doorstep; I was basicallyambushed."

The news became a national story and Oliver was thrust into the limelight. "I can't tell you very much about the months that followed that, because to me it was just like somebody had thrown me off a big hill and I was just rolling down, hoping that I'd make it to the bottom alive."

There were people who supported Oliver during her transition, including Mayor Bill White and the brass at HPD.

"When I first came out I went to every roll [call] for three days, so that I could explain to everyone what was going on. I could tell some people were uncomfortable, but there was this one guy who raised his hand and said, 'All I want to know is, will you be able to sign my overtime slip.' 'Yes.' 'That's all I care about.'"

After the media circus died down, Oliver went to Thailand to have sexual reassignment and facial reconstruction ­surgery.

Life was settling into a quiet routine again.

Then along comes the nomination for Grand Marshal of the Pride Parade, one of the most visible "Look at me!" positions of the festivities. It puts her back in the limelight.

Is she ready?

"Before I came out, I was good at hiding," she says. "Nobody noticed me, nobody saw me. I wanted it that way. And now, just two years later, all this has happened and I am maybe going to be a Grand Marshal at the Parade — it's the definition of 'overwhelming.'" Olivia Flores Alvarez

 
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