Top aide to Goldstein quits post

October 26, 1994|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Sun Staff Writer

At the urging of his boss, Maryland's second-highest tax collector resigned yesterday after being charged with tax evasion.

Chief Deputy Comptroller J. Basil Wisner ended his 36 years at the comptroller's office at the request of Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, said office spokesman Marvin A. Bond.

In forcing out his deputy of 20 years, Mr. Goldstein cited a policy that requires employees with outside businesses such as Mr. Wisner's to obey tax laws.

Mr. Wisner was charged Monday with cheating on state income and sales tax returns from a Carroll County bowling alley of which he is president and part owner.

He has agreed to pay $14,000 of the more than $22,000 in taxes he has been charged with evading from 1985 to 1993. Mr. Wisner has said that the rest will be accounted for when he files amended returns.

Mr. Goldstein wants to "let the public know they can have confidence in the tax administration system," Mr. Bond said. "He's put policies into place over the years to protect that confidence, including asking for an immediate audit of his own federal and state returns."

The comptroller, an 81-year-old Democrat seeking a 10th term, was campaigning in Carroll County yesterday and did not return phone calls.

His Republican opponent, Timothy R. Mayberry, blamed Mr. Goldstein for the "ineffective controls" that apparently allowed his deputy's tax returns to escape intense scrutiny. The incumbent "is now in his 80s and possibly unable to monitor the tax activities of friends working closely with him," Mr. Mayberry said in a prepared statement.

In a telephone interview, the 38-year-old challenger said he was not suggesting that Mr. Goldstein's age was an issue, only his performance. "It appears to me he's just not doing the job," Mr. Mayberry said.

Mr. Goldstein should have known about Mr. Wisner's tax problems before the state prosecutor became involved with investigating the deputy, he said.

"What clearer evidence could you ask for as to whether or not the job is being done properly? In his own office, he was unable to collect taxes from someone he's known for years," the Republican said.

In defending the office, Mr. Bond noted that the charges against Mr. Wisner stem solely from his outside job at the bowling alley. Prosecutors found no evidence that Mr. Wisner did anything wrong in his capacity as deputy comptroller.

Mr. Wisner, 58, oversaw policy matters and the day-to-day operations of the office, where he had worked since 1958. He is eligible for retirement benefits, which will not be affected by the circumstances of his departure.

The comptroller's office examines the returns of employees more closely that those of other taxpayers to look for common signs of fraud, Mr. Bond said. It found none with Mr. Wisner's returns.

No replacement for Mr. Wisner has been named.

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