Detroit city clerk's home has nearly $65,000 in state, federal tax liens

Detroit — City Clerk Janice Winfrey on Friday acknowledged she and her husband, Tyrone Winfrey, have tens of thousands in tax liens on their home, but said her financial struggles aren't unlike others in the city and she's been on a payment plan. 

Winfrey spoke in response to state and federal tax records that show the couple have $65,000 in tax liens. 

The Winfrey home is under a state lien, from April, for $9,753.01, and a federal lien, from January, for $54,701.92, records show, for a grand total of $64,454.93.

In a Friday interview with WWJ-AM (950), Winfrey, who is seeking another term as Detroit's clerk on Nov. 2, asserted that reports on the liens were "political."

"I'm sure I'm not the only citizen in this great city that owes taxes," Winfrey told the station.

The clerk has not responded to a request for comment from The Detroit News. 

These details come amid Winfrey's reelection campaign against Denzel McCampbell. Winfrey took 71% of the vote in a four-candidate primary in August.

It's possible the debt has been paid or that the Winfreys have agreed to a payment plan, said Pete Woodworth of Defense Tax Partners of Detroit.

Janice Winfrey, Detroit's city clerk, and her husband Tyrone Winfrey have about $65,000 in tax liens on their home, state and federal tax records show.

"You never know what the reason behind it was, or if they've entered into an agreement to get it paid," said Woodworth. "The only people who'd know if they're in a payment plan is the taxpayer and the IRS."

Winfrey's opponent, McCampbell, was on the city's charter revision commission and is a former spokesman for U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit. 

McCampbell is a longtime voting rights activist who believes the low voter turnout in Detroit owes to distrust of the system and a belief that politics can't help real people.

More:Winfrey comes out on top in Detroit clerk primary

"I'm not one to use her financial status against her," McCampbell said Friday. He said he feels "as a public official who's over public money," that Winfrey should speak to the matter.

"She needs to be very transparent with the public right now," McCampbell said. 

Winfrey was first elected clerk in 2005, defeating three-term incumbent Jackie Currie. She is in the running for her fifth term as clerk.

Winfrey's work has been controversial in recent election cycles, wherein large numbers of ballots were left unable to be recounted. 

In the August 2020 primary, recorded ballot counts in 72% of Detroit's absentee voting precincts didn't match the number of ballots cast. When factoring in Election Day results almost half, or 46% of precincts, had voting totals that didn't match precinct poll book numbers — meaning they potentially couldn't be recounted in a close election.

The outcome prompted weekly protests outside Winfrey's home and assurances from the clerk to prospective voters ahead of the general election that 10,000 workers had been recruited.

Wayne County's canvassers called for state intervention, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson formed a partnership with Winfrey that brought in a team of high-profile advisers, including Chris Thomas, Michigan’s former longtime elections director, to ensure the integrity of Detroit's November election.

The city's chronically out-of-balance precincts spurred a change in state law in 2018 that required counties to report mismatched tabulations to the Michigan Secretary of State.