Mollohan Disclosure Raises Questions

Location of West Virginia Cottage Affects Requirement for Reporting Annual Value

Posted May 10, 2010 at 6:07pm

Rep. Alan Mollohan (D) has for years declared that he owns a rental property that the local tax assessor claims does not exist.

According to Mollohan’s annual financial disclosure forms, he owns a rental property at 725 Mount Vernon Ave. in Fairmont, W.Va., with a value of $50,000 to $100,000.

But according to the Marion County Assessor’s Office, there are no records for that address. Instead, the office lists multiple buildings at 727 Mount Vernon Ave., Mollohan’s home address.

According to the assessor’s office, records for that address include two structures, both built in 1905. The smaller of the two buildings, which resembles a carriage house or cottage, has a market value of $33,500 in 2010, and the large building — apparently Mollohan’s residence — has a market value of $250,400. The land on which both buildings sits is separately estimated at a market value of $101,600, meaning the total value of the property is around $385,500.

House Members and Senators are not required to include their personal residences in their financial disclosure reports unless the property generates income. If income is generated, the rules require disclosure of the value of the entire property.

“You need not disclose a personal residence (including any gain from its sale) unless it generated rental income, including, for example, from the rental of the basement or a single room (in which case you must report the value of the entire residence),” the House instruction manual says. The Senate Ethics Committee’s manual includes similar language.

Mollohan indicated that his Mount Vernon Avenue rental property generated income of $5,000 to $15,000 each year from 2003 to 2006. In 2007, the property produced no income, but it increased to $2,500 to $5,000 in 2008, the most recent data available.

The West Virginia lawmaker first began listing the rental in his calendar year 2003 financial disclosure report with the value listed as $50,000 to $100,000 each year.

There is no indication in that report about when he or his wife, who is listed as the joint owner, purchased the home or how he otherwise acquired the property in 2003.

A Mollohan spokesman did not return a telephone message or e-mail request for comment. Although Members are not required to detail the source of previously unreported assets in some circumstances, the House instruction manual for financial disclosure forms encourages lawmakers to do so.

“When the appearance or disappearance of any asset is not reflected as a transaction, you may wish to explain it parenthetically,” states the manual, published by the House ethics committee.

Since 1990, Mollohan has included the 727 Mount Vernon Ave. address on his annual financial disclosures only once, in connection with an installment loan from Huntington National Bank in 2004. He later indicated that the entry was made in error.

“In addition to this installment loan, we do have a mortgage on that property with Huntington National Bank,” Mollohan wrote in his 2005 report. “However, that mortgage is not reportable as it is on a personal residence, and the amount of the liability shown here does not reflect that mortgage.”

At least one other lawmaker, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), rents a carriage home on the same property where he lives, according to financial disclosure reports.

McConnell is the joint owner with his wife of a “carriage house rental” at his Capitol Hill townhouse.

The Senator’s most recent financial disclosure report, for calendar year 2009, lists the entire property at a value of $1 million to $5 million and a rental income of $5,000 to $15,000 annually.

A mailbox for the carriage house, a free-standing structure located in the alleyway behind the townhouse, lists an independent address rather than an apartment number, although it appears in District of Columbia tax records as a single entity.