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Wichita candidate for Senate says DUI, other troubles are in his past

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, at 5:30 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, at 6:20 p.m.

From 1996 to 2007, state Senate candidate Timothy Snow faced misdemeanor charges for writing bad checks and driving under the influence, along with five civil lawsuits over unpaid debts and taxes, court records show.

All but one of the cases occurred in Morris County, where Snow ran a now-defunct bait and smoke shop before moving to Wichita about 3-1/2 years ago. The other case involved a tobacco wholesaler in Sedgwick County.

Snow is the Democratic candidate for Senate in the 25th Senate District in west and south Wichita. He is running in the Nov. 6 general election against Wichita City Council member Michael O’Donnell, who beat incumbent Sen. Jean Schodorf in the Republican primary.

Snow admits that he had a drinking problem until about five years ago and that he acted irresponsibly, missing several court appearances that resulted in default judgments against him.

“I can say that my fiduciary responsibility was not as important to me as it is now,” he said. “Over the past five or six years I’ve become much better at keeping things current and avoiding any lapses of judgment or error.”

He said he changed the trajectory of his life after his 2007 DUI arrest .

“I did evaluate my personal lifestyle at that time and began a lifestyle of abstinence from mood-altering substances, which I continue to practice today,” Snow said. “Sometimes you get a wake-up call in life; that happened to be mine … I have gone to great lengths to accommodate any requests that anybody had that felt that I was in arrears to them.”

In the DUI and bad-check criminal cases, both in Morris County, Snow negotiated agreements with prosecutors to have the charges dismissed after he paid fines and fees, the records show.

On the civil and small-claims dockets, Snow was sued twice for passing bad checks, once for a state sales-tax warrant, once for failure to pay rent on his business and once for failing to make payments on a settlement he had agreed to in a car-accident case.

In most of those cases, available court records did not show the final resolution of the cases and court officials could not confirm whether or how much Snow paid the plaintiffs. One of the plaintiffs has since died and several others could not be located for comment.

The court records show:

• In October 2007, Snow was charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence in Council Grove. In March 2008, Snow and prosecutors signed a diversion agreement in which Snow paid about $900 in fines and fees. The charges were automatically dismissed after Snow completed a one-year period of supervision and drug- and alcohol testing.

• In June 2004, prosecutors filed a misdemeanor charge against Snow alleging that he passed a bad check to the company that insured his business, Council Grove Bait and Smokes. Snow said he had told the insurer to cancel the policy “but they went ahead and processed the payment anyway.” Court records indicated that prosecutors moved to dismiss the case after Snow paid $471 in restitution and $147 in court costs and service charges.

• In May 2005, the state Department of Revenue filed a tax warrant against Snow, claiming he had failed to pay sales taxes from his business from the second quarter of 2003 to the second quarter of 2004. Court records show Snow satisfied the $2,801 judgment in February 2009. Snow said the judgment was an error and the state later refunded the money to him.

Snow waived his taxpayer confidentiality so the Department of Revenue could discuss the case with The Eagle. Jeff Scott, chief of compliance enforcement , said that the case arose when Snow did not file a tax return on schedule. As is its standard practice, the department filed a tax return on his behalf, estimating he owed $2,801. The department then began withholding tax refunds from Snow, holding on to $2,529. When Snow filed his actual return, the department found it had overestimated his tax liability, which was about $1,000, so it released Snow from the tax warrant and refunded $1,521.

• The landlord of Snow’s former business, David Fox, filed suit in March 2006 claiming that Snow owed him $400 for two months back rent and $200 for the cost of cleaning up the property. Snow filed a counterclaim seeking to recover $1,200 worth of property and $600 for Fox’s use of his equipment and fixtures. The court record includes a judgment in favor of Fox for $600 and rejecting Snow’s counterclaim. Snow said the judge ultimately decided in a hearing that he did not have to pay the money.

The court record noted that a courtroom hearing was held Oct. 5, 2006, but did not indicate the outcome. The two litigants had wildly varying versions of what happened.

Snow said in that final hearing, “His (Fox’s) argument and my argument were both dismissed by the judge. The judge felt essentially, we were even. I’d made improvements to the building that he’d agreed to take off the lease amount and the judge was aware of that agreement.”

Fox, however, said the judge confirmed the original judgment in his favor. Over the phone, Fox read a document from his files in which Snow, who was then living on a small disability payment, appeared to agree to pay him as quickly as possible. “I never did get a cent out of him,” Fox said. “If he wants to sit there and say he doesn’t owe me any money, he’s a liar.”

• In January 2002, a woman named Jennie Spittles sued Snow over a car accident in April 2000. In a signed settlement, Snow had agreed to pay the woman $6,037 in $100 monthly installments. The judge in the case found that Snow wasn’t making the payments and found in Spittles’ favor. Snow said he paid the amount he owed to Spittles. The court record was again inconclusive as to the final outcome, and efforts to reach Spittles were unsuccessful.

• In July 2004, Snow was sued in Sedgwick County by a tobacco supplier called Mr. Cinnamon of Kansas, alleging Snow had given the company a bad check for $541. The judge ruled in favor of Mr. Cinnamon for $1,582, including the amount of the check, interest, court costs and attorneys’ fees. Snow characterized the case as a business dispute over stale tobacco he returned to the company. The former owner of Mr. Cinnamon, James Aboud, has died and the company is no longer in business, according to employees of an affiliated liquor store.

• In January 1996, Coastal Mart Inc. filed suit claiming Snow passed a bad check for $35 at its gas station in Council Grove. Snow didn’t show up for court and Coastal was awarded a judgment for $370 including damages, fees and interest. According to the company’s latest renewal affidavit, in February 2010, the amount owed has now grown to $964. Snow said he had thought he’d paid Coastal for the bad check years ago, but after it came up in The Eagle research, Snow said he is attempting to contact the company to settle it. Coastal Mart Inc. has been sold twice since then and no longer has a store in Council Grove.

Snow said he’s worked hard to put his past problems behind him and thinks the trouble he’s been through gives him a perspective that would make him a better senator.

“It started with me helping myself by abstaining from my weakness,” he said. “I took the actions to live a good life and start helping society in general.”

“I decided to run for the Senate because I felt I could do the most good in a position like this,” he added. “I’ve been helping people one on one, or in smaller situations, with whatever capacity I could do and it seemed to me that, how could I effect the most positive change for our society and for our neighborhoods and our city and our state? And it was a natural progression. My intention is to be the voice of rational, reasonable, fair government.”

And although he often lost in court, he said he bears no ill will toward the system.

“I’m not blaming any of my problems on anything but my own lack of personal responsibility. I want to be clear about that,” he said. “I have had a lot of experience that gives me a lot of wisdom. I’m thankful for the court system we have that’s created a lot of social justice for us that otherwise we wouldn’t have.”

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527.

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