By Kristen M. Clark
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
WELLINGTON — Wellington Vice Mayor John Greene won’t say whether he’s made good on his delinquent tax returns.
Documents that would have shown whether he ever paid taxes in the first place aren’t available in his divorce file. Pressed by The Palm Beach Post, Greene agreed last week to unseal the financial portion of the file.
The documents don’t exist in the court record because Greene’s attorney never filed them in Palm Beach County Circuit Court as family law rules require.
The Post first reported in July that Greene admitted in his divorce settlement that he failed to file joint tax returns for at least 2011 and 2012 and possibly 2013. He declined to answer questions then also.
A detailed financial statement Greene was required to fill out as part of his divorce would have shown whether he acknowledged paying taxes at all.
However, financial documents in the case had been sealed by the court for more than a year — at Greene’s request — until Greene ultimately agreed to let the court make them public last week. The Post had filed a motion with the judge to challenge the sealing and a hearing had been set for Monday until Greene relented.
Last summer, Greene successfully argued to Circuit Judge Rosemarie Scher that the financial portion of his divorce filings should be sealed because he is a public official. He testified that his political enemies would use the information “to attack and defame him” and that they’d already ridiculed him on social media.
Greene’s attorney, Anthony Barbuto, said in a recent statement that “it was never Greene’s intention to hide anything from the press or avoid public accountability” by sealing the records.
However, until last week, Greene was unwilling to let the public see his financial records.
The Post’s attorneys first asked Greene in mid-July to let the newspaper access the sealed records, but he didn’t respond to the request.
After The Post filed its court motion Aug. 20, Barbuto said Aug. 26 that Greene authorized him to “immediately cooperate” with The Post’s motion. However, Barbuto initially resisted opening Greene’s financial records for public inspection, instead wanting only The Post to have access.
The Post was prepared to continue the court battle to protect the public’s right to inspect court records, and Greene ultimately agreed to ask the judge to open up the files to everyone.
Greene did not return several messages seeking comment this week.
Greene’s ex-wife, Dana, opposed sealing the financial records in the first place, and after The Post filed its motion, her attorney, John Boykin, agreed the public should have full access.
Court records ultimately showed Barbuto sent Greene’s financial statement only to Dana Greene’s attorney.
Under Florida’s open records law, the basic substance of divorce records is presumed to be open to the public — including financial affidavits the spouses are required to file in most cases.
The affidavits are important, especially in contested divorces, to calculate alimony and child-support payments.
Dana Greene’s affidavit offers a detailed account of income, assets, bills and other expenses, including some shared by the couple. It was signed in June 2013 and filed in court in January 2014.
She acknowledged the tax delinquency, listing “taxes” as a possible liability of an unknown amount. In her calculations, she listed no taxes withheld.
Greene acknowledged under oath in the divorce settlement that “he generally was responsible for the accumulation and delivery of records to the accountant during that period” when he failed to file tax returns.
When the marriage was dissolved this spring, he agreed to bear responsibility for any taxes owed when returns weren’t filed, “including any penalties, interest, fines associated with the late filings.” He agreed to absolve Dana Greene from any IRS enforcement actions related to their delinquent taxes and/or returns.
In his statement from Aug. 26, Barbuto alleged The Post’s investigation was “attempting to place Vice Mayor John Greene in a false light” and was “politically motivated.”
“Greene’s motivation in sealing his divorce records was to keep what was a very private matter out of the public and to protect his family from unnecessary intrusion,” Barbuto said.
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