“A good example is the best sermon.” - Benjamin Franklin
Burleigh County Commissioner Mark Armstrong, a former radio show host on KFYR-AM and current communications director at ND Workforce Safety & Insurance, has long been a very visible member of the greater Bismarck-Burleigh community. That is in great part because, well, it has often been stated the most dangerous place to be in that community is between him and a television camera. Armstrong has long been a media hound, but cemented that reputation during the 2011 flood when the airwaves and internet were full of publicity surrounding him — and generated in part by him. His kayak trip on a swollen Missouri River (which was closed to all boat traffic for safety concerns, including his chosen watercraft type which amounts to an overgrown fishing bobber with seats) is the stuff of legend in Bismarck, in great part because he posted his trip on YouTube for all his constituents to see — the same constituents who were expected to stay off the water.
One would think a man this tuned in to publicity, and ensuring he gets as much of it as possible for himself, would go to great lengths to ensure nothing in his life could tarnish that self-generated image. That would start with some basics, such as ensuring property taxes were paid — the same property taxes that help fund his county commissioner salary. It appears, however (based on information received from the county auditors office by an open records request) that Armstrong didn’t think paying property taxes on time, like his constituents are expected to do, was that important. In fact, he has been delinquent on the last two years of property taxes, including over a year delinquent on his 2010 taxes:
Mark Armstrong Property Tax and Special Assessments
2010: $4,442.27 owed, including $513.59 in Penalties and Interest – Paid on Apr 3rd, 2012
2011: $3,997.83 owed, including $60.20 in Penalties and Interest – Also paid on Apr 3rd, 2012
Armstrong is not alone in his disregard for timely payment of his property taxes. He is joined by fellow Burleigh County Commissioners Jerry Woodcox and Doug Schonert.
Jerry Woodcox Property Tax and Special Assessments
1999: $3,954.83 owed, including $115.19 in Penalties and Interest – Paid on Oct 13th, 2000
2008: $5,388.58 owed, including $445.85 in Penalties and Interest – Paid on Nov 17th, 2009
Doug Schonert Property Tax and Special Assessments (several properties)
2008: $890.85 owed, including $25.95 in Penalties and Interest – Paid on May 6th, 2009
2009: $647.42 owed, including $10.00 in Penalties and Interest – Paid on Apr 6th, 2010
Commissioners Brian Bitner and Jim Peluso had no records of delinquency in their property tax payments. One could say they should be commended for this, but in reality they are just doing what is expected of every other citizen in the county. They probably would be the first to say that as well.
Armstrong and Schonert were re-elected to their current terms in 2010, and are up for re-election in 2014. Woodcox just filed for re-election. All three have been on the Burleigh County Commission for many years. One might cut Schonert some slack (and I am not necessarily advocating this) since his amounts owed were not great, nor was his lateness in paying. In the cases of Armstrong and Woodcox, however, the violations are gross and show utter disregard for the people they are supposed to serve.
If anything, they should step down and not run again. If they won’t, perhaps the voters in Burleigh County could help them out by not re-electing Woodcox, and recalling Armstrong (who finished 3rd in the election which sent the top three vote getters to office).
Or, Armstrong and the others who were delinquent could just get behind Measure 2, which would abolish property taxes if passed on the June ballot, so they won’t have to worry about property taxes anymore.