When Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins was a Newark councilwoman, she charged the city more than $8,000 one year for meals, another $3,000 on a trip to the American Black Film Festival in Florida, and $1,000 for custom-designed Mother’s Day cards.
Now looking to return as a candidate for a council seat after being ousted eight years ago, Chaneyfield-Jenkins is apparently still having trouble paying her own bills. Records show she owes more than $100,000 in federal and state tax liens.
Chaneyfield-Jenkins, 57, did not respond to calls for comment, but campaign manager Lionel Leach said there was a period in 2006 when she was unemployed. That was the year she lost her bid for re-election.
“There are hundreds of millions of people in America who have some type of lien, and just because she was an elected official doesn’t mean she’s not human,” Leach said. “I’m sure these back taxes are being paid.”
Leach, however, was unable to produce documents to show Chaneyfield-Jenkins is participating in any kind of re-payment plan.
According to public records, Chaneyfield-Jenkins, who is running in the May 13th municipal election as part of mayoral hopeful Ras Baraka’s team, and her husband Kevin Jenkins — who once was also on the city payroll as her chief of staff — owe more than $70,000 in federal tax liens dating to 2002. Together they owe $27,676 for a 2004 state tax lien. There is also a $12,154 state tax lien against Chaneyfield-Jenkins for 2002, and one worth $25,381 against her husband for the same year.
Several other tax liens from the same time period have been satisfied or released, records show, and there is a more than $24,000 judgment against Chaneyfield-Jenkins related to an outstanding debt from her 2006 reelection campaign.
One of her opponents, incumbent Darrin Sharif, has no federal or state tax liens, and one satisfied judgment from 2000.
Andre Speight, who is running for council on the Shavar Jeffries slate, owes more than $8,000 in tax liens, records show. His outstanding federal tax liens for 2013 are worth $6,635 and $499, and he owes $1,471 for a 2011 state tax lien.
Public records also show eight judgments against Speight worth more than $24,000. Most were from the late 1990s and early 2000s, but one is as recent as 2009.
“It’s something I’m currently working on to resolve as expeditiously as I can,” said Speight, who said he’s working with his accountant but isn’t on any official payment plan. “I just got behind with financial matters. The judgments should have been covered in my bankruptcy.”
Speight couldn’t recall the year of the bankruptcy, but public records show he actually had two bankruptcies — in 2003 and 2011.
Chaneyfield-Jenkins served on the council from 1998 to 2006, gaining some notoriety when she and two other council members took a trip to Ghana in a much-criticized tour to the West African nation at the city’s expense. She also successfully lobbied for a $10,000 donation from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey for a group she headed, Women with Hats On for the Cure, that turned out to be unregistered as a charity.
In 2009, after leaving office, she sought a lucrative consulting contract with the city council — after contributing to the campaigns of several council members, records showed. The contract proposal, which officials said had been improperly initiated, later died.
Chaneyfield-Jenkins, meanwhile, is still on the hook for expenses she incurred in her unsuccessful bid for reelection. Public records also show a more than $24,000 default judgment against Chaneyfield-Jenkins, her husband and former campaign treasurer Ronald T. Wise, in favor of a Springfield printing company that did work for the campaign.
“I told them that I needed to get paid as the jobs were completed, and in the beginning they were paying me,” said Idalia Williford, the owner of Corporate Type. “As the end of April 2006 approached, I was getting more jobs and the payments were slowing down, and they kept promising me they were going to pay.”
By the end of that month, the campaign stopped paying, said Williford, whose current clients include candidates on both Ras Baraka’s and Shavar Jeffries’ teams.
She said the total unpaid debt was $24,653.35, and after unsuccessful attempts to collect, Williford said she hired an attorney and went to court. She walked away with a default judgment for the full amount against Chaneyfield-Jenkins, her husband and Wise. A lien was also placed on Wise’s home.
Williford said the non-payment was more than lost income because she still had to pay $15,000 to subcontractors who helped complete the printing jobs.
“Cheating my small business out of this money for a service they received set me and my family back a long time,” she said.
Leach, her current campaign manager, said the 2006 printing bills were handled by her former campaign director, who has since died. But the name of James Benjamin, who had served as campaign manager, does not appear on any of the bills, documents show, and the printer said she only spoke to Kevin Jenkins and treasurer Wise about the jobs and the invoices.
Leach also said the candidate’s attorney has been handling the matter since 2006, and that he wasn’t sure who may have been served in that case. He added that Chaneyfield-Jenkins is disputing the amount owed, but Leach could not produce documents to show there was a dispute. When asked, Leach did not provide the attorney’s name.
Williford disagreed with Leach’s comments, saying court documents were sent certified mail and confirmed delivered to Chaneyfield-Jenkins at the time of the court case, and again in 2014. Williford also said no one ever contacted her or her attorney to dispute the amount owed.
The Star-Ledger spoke to two other vendors — both requested anonymity — who said they did work for the 2006 campaign and were not fully paid.
The Baraka and Jeffries campaigns had no comment.