RIVERBANK — City Councilman and mayoral candidate Dave White says he and his wife opened a beauty supply store in the mid-1980s and eventually grew their business to 30 stores in several states with annual revenues of $8 million to $9 million at its peak.
But they didn't always pay their taxes on time.
Thirteen tax liens totaling more than $214,000 were filed against the Whites from 1992 through 2005 at the Stanislaus County clerk-recorder's office. Documents show all of the liens have been satisfied.
There also are more recent liens. The Montana Department of Revenue filed two liens in 2008 for about $6,500 against White. Both have been satisfied.
White — who lists having Riverbank balance its budget as a priority — said the liens should not concern voters when they pick a mayor Nov. 3.
"Why should it be an issue?" he asked. "I've paid all my bills. Other than two house payments, I'm virtually debt free. The important thing is I didn't dispute them. I paid them. I pay all my bills. The city pays its own bills."
But Larry Giventer, a political science professor at California State University, Stanislaus, said the liens are relevant information for voters, which they can weigh along with White's record as a councilman.
Giventer said there occasionally can be circumstances in which taxes are not paid on time, but he found the number of liens and that they spanned more than a decade a concern.
"The problems seem to be recurring here," he said. "My opinion is that everyone, whoever they are, is responsible for paying their taxes on time."
White, who has served on the council nearly 18 of the past 25 years, is one of six candidates seeking to become mayor.
IRS, EDD had claims
The Internal Revenue Service filed five liens against White, 70, and his wife from 1997 to 2005 for nearly $170,000 at the Stanislaus County clerk-recorder's office. The California Employment Development Department filed seven liens from 1992 to 1999 for $26,498 and another lien in 2005 for $17,700. All of these liens have been satisfied.
The liens were for payroll taxes and can include penalties and interest.
A database search of public records shows tax liens totaling about $20,000 were filed from 1993 through 2008 by Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington associated with White. (The search includes the two Montana liens for $6,500.) Three civil judgments also were filed against him — one in 1989 and two in 1995 — for a total of more than $47,000. Records show the liens and judgments have been satisfied.
White said the 1989 judgment for $10,088 was for a labor dispute with two employees at his Chico store, and said the other judgments were for breaking leases for two stores at a Washington mall.
White said he could not recall all of the details regarding the liens, but did not dispute it when told they totaled more than $200,000 and they were filed in several states. He reviewed with The Bee copies of liens filed in Stanislaus County. He said he believes the IRS froze company bank accounts until its liens were paid. He declined to show his business records.
"Maybe we grew too fast," he said about falling behind on his taxes. "Maybe we got out of control. There are a lot of maybes. If you had bad stores, you had to stay with them. You go into a mall and you sign a 10-year lease. When you open a new store, you never know what's going to happen.
"To the average businessperson. I think they will understand, especially if they had multiple businesses in several different states."
Opened barbershop at mall in 1982
White and his wife were barbers and opened a Kings Den Haircutters in Modesto's Vintage Faire Mall in 1982. He said they expanded into Merced a few years later with a salon and a beauty supply store.
White said they had stores in California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Idaho. They had stores stretching the length of the Central Valley, from Bakersfield to Redding. Most of the stores were called Pro Beauty Supply, but others operated under the names Salon Secrets and Kings Den.
He said operations peaked a few years ago with 30 stores.
Since then, White said they have wound down the business, closing stores as their leases expired. He said there are about 10 stores left. White said he and his wife have three stores — at Vintage Faire, in Stockton and his wife's hometown in Washington. He said two of his children operate the remaining stores.
It's been a turbulent political year for White. A group tried to recall him and his grandson and fellow councilman, Jesse James White. It accused the Whites of not being fit to serve, but it failed to gather enough signatures to put the recall before voters.
Dave White said he'll be OK if he's not mayor. "I'm still going to be on the council even if I lose the election. I don't lose my council seat."
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2316.