A candidate for North Carolina’s House District 44 owes the IRS more than $222,000, records at the Cumberland County Clerk of Court’s Office show.
The candidate, Democrat Terry Lynn Johnson Sr., said the debt stems from a failed business venture he had operated on Yadkin Road called the Vehicle Processing Center of Fayetteville Inc. Johnson said he has been fighting in court since 2014 to get the prime contractor in the venture to give him what he is owed so he can pay back the IRS.
Secretary of State records show that Johnson’s registration for the business, which had largely stored vehicles for military employees, has been suspended since July 2018.
Johnson has other troubles as well.
Secretary of State records show that his business registration has been suspended for Terry Johnson Funeral Services Licensee, a Fayetteville funeral home he had operated for years. And state Board of Funeral Services records show that his funeral services license has been suspended since December 2020.
In another matter, a Fayetteville police report alleges that Johnson wrote a worthless check for $1,451 to Thelma Mae Bethune in March 2020. Social media posts show that Bethune was employed by Johnson that year as a poll worker during his first primary for the House District 44 seat. Efforts to reach Bethune were unsuccessful.
Why CityView TODAY is investigating
Johnson narrowly lost the 2020 primary to state Rep. Bill Richardson – 5,109 votes to 4,693. Richardson is not running for re-election, and there is no Republican in the race this year. In the Democratic primary, Johnson faces Charles R. Smith, a lawyer and former Cumberland County assistant district attorney. Whoever wins the primary will win the general election in November.
In fairness to Johnson, CityView TODAY also looked for criminal and civil records involving Smith. The only thing uncovered was an expired vehicle registration from 2009.
CityView TODAY does not intend to investigate the backgrounds of all local candidates in this year’s primary. It investigated Franco Webb, a candidate in Fayetteville’s mayoral race, after learning about a small-claims court case that was decided against him on May 3.
The online publication investigated Johnson because of tips it received about his financial problems and because the primary in his race will decide who wins the general election.
It investigated Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin because former City Council member Tisha Waddell made allegations about him and others when she resigned in November.
The primary is May 17.
Tips from an email
On May 6, CityView TODAY received a copy of an email from a group calling itself Fayetteville Associates. The email was addressed to Gov. Roy Cooper. It urges Cooper not to endorse Johnson and mentions the allegation that Johnson still had not paid poll workers for their work in 2020. An email from CityView TODAY to Fayetteville Associates asking for the name of its leader and members went unanswered.
In an exchange of text messages to CityView Today, Johnson would not directly say whether all of his poll workers have been paid in full.
“I will share with you Sir, there was a discrepancy in getting the poll workers paid in the last cycle,” Johnson wrote. “Increment payments were made to clear the debt owed and now a team member will reach out to the poll workers and make things right.”
Johnson said he has seen a copy of the email from Fayetteville Associates.
“It is unfortunate that at this particular time in the election, persons who don’t want to put their names to their tips would try to detract my focus on my quest to be the people’s choice for NC House of Representative,” he said in one text. “I’ve been a life long citizen of this community excluding my time away in the military and short stints away. I am veteran, husband, father and grandfather. I’ve created jobs in my community along with volunteering the same.”
In an earlier interview, Johnson accused Fayetteville Associates of “slandering my name.”
Johnson defends himself
Secretary of State’s records show that the business registrations for Johnson’s Vehicle Processing Center of Fayetteville Inc. and his Terry Johnson Funeral Services Licensee were suspended in July 2018 at the request of the state Department of Revenue. A spokeswoman for the Revenue Department said state law prevents her from saying why.
Stephen Davis, executive director of the state Board of Funeral Services, said Johnson’s funeral services license expired in December 2020.
“Only those with an active license can practice funeral services,” Davis said.
But he said the board would not investigate whether Johnson was providing funeral services without a license unless it received a complaint, and then it might be a matter for a court to decide.
“I don't know if the board has any authority or basis to do anything,” Davis said. “We only have jurisdiction over those who are licensed to assure that they are complying with applicable general statutes of North Carolina, federal statutes and North Carolina administrative rules.”
Johnson said he has not been involved in the funeral business since his license expired.
But in The Fayetteville Observer’s voters’ guide this year, Johnson said he was a licensed funeral service director.
“Well, maybe I need to retract it and say that I'm inactive. But I've been licensed over 20 years,” he told CityView TODAY.
Johnson said his funeral services license expired because he lacked five credit hours in continuing education classes. He said he plans to take those classes later this year and get his license, though he doesn’t plan to reopen his funeral home.
Regarding the IRS tax lien for $222,545, Johnson said he continues to fight back.
“Because my business was dissolved then they moved the taxes that were owed to the business to me personally,” he said. “I'm still working on that because the business was a corporation that should be protected by the sale of the corporation.”
Part of his problems, Johnson said, stem from an early case of COVID-19 that almost killed him and left him with brain fog. The Veterans Administration finally paid his $88,000 medical bill, he said.
“Have I crossed every T, dotted every I, no I have not,” he said. “But I've been in the community, I’ve talked to the people that I helped in the community, the people that I'm still helping in the community on the things that the platform is running on. That's what I'm here for. I'm not here to get in all the weeds and all the distractions that are going to be brought my way.”
Greg Barnes is an investigative reporter for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at email@example.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.