PROVIDENCE — Most of the state's top office-holders and candidates voluntarily made their state and federal tax returns public – to one degree or another – last April or soon after.
There were holdouts; however, including Gov. Dan McKee – who has made his returns public in the past – and his Republican challenger, Ashley Kalus, who relocated to Rhode Island last year.
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Despite earlier promises to voluntarily make their tax returns public when they were filed, neither had done so as of Thursday amid questions about Kalus' ties to Rhode Island as recently as 2021 when she was registered to vote in Florida, and benefiting from a homestead exemption on a home in Illinois.
Questions about tax returns
Among the questions: why Kalus and her husband, plastic surgeon Jeffrey Weinzweig, received a homestead exemption in 2021 on their stately Illinois home on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, as first reported by WPRI.
In return for living in this home, their property tax bill – which they recently sold – was reduced by $515.40 to $32,460.78 a year, according to the Lake County tax office.
Kalus tweeted this response to the disclosure: "BREAKING: My husband, Jeff, was in Chicago taking care of his patients. Sound the alarm!"
Her campaign manager, Matt Hanrahan, elaborated: "Ashley’s husband, Jeff, was still in Highland Park in 2021 running his medical practice in Chicago – while Ashley was here in RI overseeing vaccine and testing."
In Illinois, he noted: "real estate taxes are paid a year in arrears, meaning 2022 have not yet been filed. It should also be noted, Ashley and Jeff put their house on the market in April and it recently sold."
More information surfaced on Friday: Kalus registered to vote in Florida in 2019 under her married name, voted there in November 2020, and did not end her voter registration in Florida until March 23 of this year, according to elections officials there.
That was the day after Kalus announced for governor of Rhode Island, It now appears she and her husband were benefiting from the tax break for homeowners who live in Illinois, while she was registered to vote in Florida.
Her spokesman Matt Hanrahan answered one question: "When Ashley moved, she sent a letter requesting to be removed from the rolls. In March of ‘22, she noticed she had not been, and followed up. At that point, she was officially removed from the rolls.
"Florida doesn’t automatically clear its voter rolls. Again, when Ashley realized she was still registered in FL, she took the necessary steps to get herself removed."
Hanrahan did not immediately explain why she apparently asserted residency in two states: in Illinois to get a homestead exemption, and in Florida to vtote.
As the story was evolving, the Democratic Governors Association pounced"
“Ashley Kalus claims she’s a true Rhode Islander until it comes to giving up her tax break in Illinois,” DGA Senior Communications Adviser Christina Amestoy said Thursday.
"Kalus, who was born in California and grew up in Massachusetts, also owns another million-dollar home in Florida, where she voted as recently as 2020," Amestoy said. "Rhode Islanders will see right through her façade.”
On her financial disclosure filing with the state Ethics Commission, she listed the Narragansett Avenue house in Newport as the business address for Sirena Key Cottage LLC and herself as the manager. (The company appears unregistered in Rhode Island.)
Neither Kalus nor her campaign has responded yet to questions about the nature of the business conducted by Sirena Key Cottage in Rhode Island and potentially elsewhere, and the status of other businesses in which she has been listed as a principal.
It is also unclear if Kalus – who came to Rhode Island to oversee state COVID testing and vaccination contracts – filed tax returns in Rhode Island for 2021.
She amended her ethics filing on Sept. 8 to reflect the "500,001 to $1 million" she was paid consulting for Primary and Immediate Care Solutions dba Doctors Test Centers, the company that had a short-lived COVID testing and vaccination contract with Rhode Island.
Kalus' ethics disclosure filing lists a number of ventures in Illinois and Florida from which she and her husband derived income in 2021.
They include his role as the medical director – and hers as a consultant – to the Chicago-based Primary and Intermediate Care Solutions LLD dba Doctors Test Centers, that had COVID-related contracts for a time in Rhode Island, Key West, Fla. and Chicago, Ill.
The filing also lists his roles in JW plastic Surgery and JW Holdings LLC , based at 20 W. Ontario Street in Chicago.
When asked in April if Kalus would make her tax returns public, her campaign said: "Ashley had to file for an extension, but will release her returns upon completion."
Asked again earlier this week, her spokesman Matt Hanrahan said: "Ashley's latest return has not yet been filed."
With the Oct. 15 deadline nearing for taxpayers who filed for extensions, his campaign spokeswoman Alana O'Hare told The Journal on Thursday:
"As you know, the Governor filed for an extension on his taxes for this past year and he expects them to be completed in the near future....[And] just as he has done in years past, he will release them publicly once they are filed.
"We hope Ashley Kalus will also release at least three years of tax returns as well," she said.
So what do we know about the McKees' 2021 sources of income?
McKee's 2021 financial disclosure filing with the Ethics Commission indicates that he resigned his seat on the board of Blackstone Valley Prep – the charter school he helped found – within days of becoming governor on March 2, 2021.
He still listed himself as VP of the family-run McKee Brothers Oil as well, having told The Journal during a wide-ranging interview last month that he had relinquished the title.
The company is one of dozens of property owners embroiled in a long-running fight in federal court over who-owes-how-much for the cleanup of the Peterson/Puritan Superfund site, a polluted property that covers 980 acres in Cumberland and Lincoln along the Blackstone River.
In 2021, McKee's wife, Susan, was still working as a reading specialist at the Highlander Charter School in Providence. She is not teaching this year.
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: McKee and Kalus have yet to filed tax returns: What could be in them?