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Anger Spurs Accountant Into Politics

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Charles 'Skipper' Sayre, an Ann Arbor accountant who is running for the state Legislature, is embroiled in a dispute with the city over unpaid taxes on his home office equipment. Sayre has written obscene and threatening letters to city officials during the dispute. 

Anger spurs accountant into politics

■ Republican candidate for state House is embroiled in suit with City of Ann Arbor over unpaid personal taxes.


Charles 'Skipper’’ Sayre, a Republican candidate for the state House of Representatives in the 52nd District, claims the city of Ann Arbor has been acting “improperly and illegally and maliciously” in trying to collect six years’ worth of unpaid personal property taxes from him.

Sayre, 55, is a Certified Public Accountant, although a check of state records showed that he failed to renew his accountancy license when it expired Dec. 31.

He says he hopes to turn the city’s tax suit against him into an electoral asset.

Sayre talked freely about his legal problems, his rage at the city and two letters he wrote the city - one that he acknowledges was threatening, the other obscene. But he insisted that a reporter interview him in his 11th floor Huron Towers apartment “so you can get a sense of who I am.”

In Sayre’s apartment, leaded glass panels and assorted antiques battle for space with a proliferation of potted jade trees; he owns an Edsel he is fixing up for use in the summer Congressional campaign.

In a corner bedroom overlooking the Huron River, he conducts his accounting business at a laminate-topped steel desk he bought for $468 in 1967. His legal problems stem from a suit filed by the Ann Arbor city treasurer in 15th District Court last year charging that Sayre owes $336.11 in back personal property taxes and penalties on the steel desk and other home office furnishings. The taxes have gone unpaid since 1985.

Sayre said he did not willingly pay personal property taxes in the early 1980s either. In a 1984 confrontation, Sayre said then-15th District Judge George Alexander tossed him in jail for several hours. He said he intended to remain behind bars indefinitely as a statement of protest but that some attorney friends cut a deal behind his back to pay a portion of his earlier tax bill and get him out.

In the current dispute, Sayre wrote a letter to the Ann Arbor City Council last summer that contained a second letter - addressed to “all courts and police departments in Washtenaw County” - which he said he would mail if the council refused to act on his tax concerns.

In that letter, Sayre said he would be arming himself with a “lethal but legal” defensive weapon, called himself a “patriotic soldier fighting for freedom and justice and liberty” and said that a police officer might have to shoot him if there was a confrontation.

In a followup letter to the council last November, Sayre called the city attorney who answered his first letter “a perversity that is sucking on your public nipple” and made another reference so lewd that the city clerk’s office refused to include it in the packet of materials given to the mayor and council that week. Sayre said he was angry and deliberately used dirty words so the letter would not be published in the paper.

The angry accountant said his frustration with the city is one of the reasons he decided to run for state office - his first venture into electoral politics.

Sayre said he admires would-be presidential candidate Ross Perot and Gov. John Engler but detests the conduct of most government.

“When you are on the outside, all you can do is get angry,” he said. “There are no appeals, no system for righting the wrongs. I want to get on the inside so I can change it.”

Sayre said he is pro-choice, against the death penalty, would take the state out of the auto insurance business, abolish the Michigan Tax Tribunal and generally try to undo government’s efforts to excessively regulate people’s lives.

“And I am fighting this tax thing to demonstrate to the people that government is not all right, not honest, not benevolent,” Sayre said. “The most important concern of government officials is to get money out of people. They are supposed to follow the rules, but they don’t.”

But the accountant’s tax troubles may stem from his own failure to take advantage of the rules.

Sayre said he submitted statements to the city treasurer saying that the total purchase price of his desk, three office chairs, filing cabinet and telephone was $810 and that the items had a market value of only $690.

Under the tax code, the first $500 of state equalized value of home office furnishings is exempt. Equalized value is half the market value, therefore he should have owed no tax.

Assistant City Attorney Thomas Blessing said Sayre failed to file the proper form to claim the exemption.