The principal manager of Alabama’s largest private utility, Baldwin County Sewer Service (BCSS), has been imposed income tax liens totaling more than $7.1 million since 1997, according to probate records.
Clarence Burke, who was also named alongside his wife, Dorie, in some of the seven federal tax liens and seven state tax liens, has been released from all but two of those liens, state income tax totaling $552,700.62 for the years 2005 and 2006, according to records.
Those same two years, Burke also faced more than $5.1 million in liens from the Internal Revenue Service, but both were released earlier this year — in February and May — upon full repayment.
As Lagniappe has previously reported as part of an ongoing series, an affidavit filed in a state fraud case against Burke and others in 2017 indicated he had a 43.5 percent ownership interest in BCSS via his company Wolf Creek Industries Inc., which is equal to the ownership interest of financier David DeLaney and his company Alliance Ltd. Eleven percent of BCSS is assigned to Robert Cunningham Jr. and Robert Cunningham III via Supersonic LLC while separate records indicate engineer John Avent and his wife, Olivia, were assigned a 2 percent interest in the company doing business as Southern Aventi LLC in 2013.
Last month, at least one group of residents representing the Lakeview Estates Property Owners Association in Foley met with State Rep. Steve McMillan and Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh about establishing state-regulated price controls on the utility, but they were told it would have to be a legislative act. In the 650-home GlenLakes subdivision, BCSS increased sewer rates from $32.50 to $54.50 per month in the early 2000s, despite an agreement with BCSS’s predecessor limiting tap fees and rates to an “average of South Baldwin County.”
The subdivision filed a class action lawsuit against BCSS in 2014, but its class certification was denied in a summary judgment awarded by Judge Joseph Norton in May 2019, a decision the plaintiffs have since appealed to the Supreme Court.
Separately, Burke and a number of business partners in other companies formed over the years for land acquisition and development purposes repaid more than $36 million in defaulted mortgages in 2015 and 2016, after Hancock Bank filed a lawsuit to recoup losses incurred by Peoples First Community Bank after it was closed by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Thrift Supervision in December 2009.
The tax years 2005 and 2006 reflected the largest liens against Burke, but between both the state of Alabama and the federal government he was issued liens totaling:
• $267,002.80 in 1997
• $257,911.75 in 1998
• $467,953.16 in 2000
• $252,367.40 in 2002
• $44,787.31 in 2003
• $16,746.78 in 2013
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