Local Politics

Monday, Aug 25 2014 07:00 PM

Abernathy settles more tax debts after Californian raises questions

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Mark and Cathy Abernathy failed to pay property taxes for more than a year on two residences they own in Bakersfield including this property in east Bakersfield where President George W. Bush and his parents, President George H.W. and Barbara Bush, lived during the summer of 1949 at 2101 Monterey St. Abernathy, who bought the home in 2000, proposed turning the modest home into a museum.

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    By Dan Ocampo/The Californian

    In this file photo, Mark Abernathy stands in front of the home at 2101 Monterey St. that was occupied by George and Barbara Bush in 1949. George W. Bush was 3 years old at the time. Abernathy and his wife had planned on restoring the home to its 1949 condition, turning it into a museum and reading clinic.

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BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer jburger@bakersfield.com

Political consultant Mark Abernathy has long talked about turning the former Bush house on Monterey Street into a museum.

Not only has that not happened, Abernathy hasn't been keeping up on his property tax payments.

That is until Monday, days after The Californian started asking questions about the unpaid bills. Abernathy then paid them in full.

The property in question is the modest east Bakersfield home where former President George W. Bush and his parents, former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush, lived during the summer of 1949.

The elder Bush, then 26, was working as an oil field equipment salesman when he brought his young family there.

Abernathy bought the house in 2000 with plans to turn it into a museum.

On Friday, The Californian learned Abernathy and his wife, Cathy, had failed to pay property taxes on the house and another residence they own in town since December 2012.

The Abernathys owed $1,897.83 on the onetime Bush house. They also owed $5,625.93 in property taxes on the Moore Apartments -- a two-story, four-unit rental property on 13th Street near the Historic Downtowner Inn.

But on Monday afternoon, three days after The Californian started leaving messages with Abernathy asking why he hadn't paid the taxes, the debts were paid electronically, according to Kern County Treasurer-Tax Collector Jackie Denney.

She had told the paper Abernathy skipped the property tax bills that were due in April 2013 and had not paid their taxes on the two properties since then.

Abernathy told The Californian in 2009 that he'd raised enough money to renovate the house, but his dreams of turning it into a museum apparently never materialized.

On Monday it sat empty, its green grass freshly mowed but its vinyl siding panels warped and sagging and the paint on its window frame peeling away in strips.

Abernathy's only comment to The Californian about the taxes owed on the house was an email late Monday afternoon saying he'd paid them.

Abernathy's property taxes aren't the only taxes he has reportedly struggled to pay.

The business status of Abernathy's consulting firm, Western Pacific Research, has been suspended since February because it owed California state corporate taxes, according to the Franchise Tax Board.

Western Pacific Research owed $46,414 in May. That tally has been reduced several times and, as of Monday afternoon, sat at $1,620.71. The Franchise Tax Board won't say how the debt has been reduced.

But the business remains suspended and -- while it is still allowed to provide services to clients -- it is not legally a business and cannot sue its clients if they choose not to pay their bills.

Abernathy has been a powerful force in Republican politics in Kern County and California for decades.

Western Pacific Research has provided campaign consultant work for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, state Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, Bakersfield City Council members Ken Weir and Jacquie Sullivan, and sitting Kern County Supervisors Mick Gleason and Zack Scrivner.

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