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Dooley Releases Decade's Worth Of Tax Returns, Calls On Rivals To Do The Same

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

(Updated 8:20 p.m. Wed., March 19)

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley has released nine years of his tax returns – from 2003 to 2012 – and he is calling on his Democratic and Republican rivals to do the same. 

“Nine years, open book, transparency,’’ Dooley said, as he handed over copies of his returns to St. Louis Public Radioduring his appearance on the Politically Speaking podcast.

Dooley said he will make his 2013 tax returns public, when they are filed. The deadline is April 15.

“People talk about transparency and ethics. You can know anything you want to know about Charlie Dooley,’’ he said. “Here’s his taxes.”

Dooley’s chief target appears to be County Councilman Steve Stenger, who is challenging Dooley in the August Democratic primary, arguably the region’s marquee contest this summer.

Stenger, a lawyer, said through a spokesman late Wednesday that he also planned to release his tax returns. Stenger's campaign then called on Dooley to agree to a televised debate.

Dooley, who has been in office 10 years, also appears to be attempting to counter questions raised by Stenger and others about the ethics and transparency of his administration, which has come under fire over the past year for various controversies and staff missteps.

Dooley appears to want to make clear that he has nothing to hide, at least when it comes to his personal finances.

Dooley released full copies of his returns for nine years, beginning in 2003 – the year he ascended to the county’s top office with the death of then-County Executive George R. “Buzz’’ Westfall – and for 2005-2012.

Dooley produced a tax summary for 2004, obtained from the IRS, because he had failed to keep a copy. Aides cited problems with his old computer.

What Dooley’s taxes show

In any case, Dooley’s tax returns make clear that he’s not a man of large personal wealth or investments. His family’s income has come from salaries and pensions, not from interest on savings or stock dividends.

Credit Chris McDaniel/St. Louis Public Radio
A screenshot of the top of Dooley's 2005 tax return

He also generally hasn’t relied on professional tax preparers to fill out his tax returns. Instead, Dooley has filed his returns himself, with the help of the computer program TurboTax.

In 2003, the year that Dooley unexpectedly became county executive that fall, he and his wife, Sandra Dooley, collected $110,224 in income from a variety of sources.  The taxable amount was $88,383.

That year, he was a county councilman earning a small salary of $12,500 (the current council pay is $20,000); his wife worked for General Motors. Dooley also had a pension of just under $25,000 from Boeing for his 30 years working for McDonnell Douglas, now part of Boeing.

From 2004 on, his pay dramatically increased as county executive. Dooley currently earns $140,000, augmented by his Boeing pension. His wife earned close to $59,000 at General Motors until she retired in 2009.  She now collects a pension of about $31,000 a year.

The couple’s peak income year was 2005, when they reported a gross income of $217,386 (taxable income was $181,653). That year, they paid $40,594 in federal taxes and $9,821 in state taxes. They donated $14,080 to charity.

Since then, the Dooleys’ combined annual income has hovered around $200,000.   For most of those years, their federal tax rate, after deductions, has been around 17 percent.

Their annual charitable contributions in most the years have totaled around $15,000.

In 2012, the last return made public, the couple’s gross income was lower: $182,625. Their taxable income was $144,313. Their charitable contributions totaled $17,620.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.