A Nebraska State Senator and his high powered boat are linked to unpaid taxes, possibly amounting to several thousand dollars.
Rogert’s 28 foot long, 310 horsepower speedboat was first registered with the Douglas County Treasurer’s office on December 5, 2002. Rogert also registered the boat in Douglas County in 2005. In 2006 and in January of 2009 Rogert registered the boat in Burt County. According to Douglas County Treasurer John Ewing, two sources, and state records examined by Nebraska Watchdog, Rogert paid registration fees each time, but there are no records that he ever paid the sales tax.
According to our investigation Rogert, who was elected in 2006, did not pay the sales tax because when he first registered the boat Rogert was given a dealer’s registration number: 019 AMT. Paying the sales tax on boats is not required if the owner is a boat dealer. But on Rogert’s Statement of Financial Interests, a document that many state employees including senators must file with the State of Nebraska, there is nothing to indicate that Rogert sells boats. And in a telephone interview with Nebraska Watchdog, Rogert said he is, “… a real estate agent, not a boat dealer.”
Asked by Nebraska Watchdog why he was given a dealer’s boat registration number (019 AMT) Rogert said he was dabbling in the boat business several years ago. According to Rogert he received what he called a “piece of paper” to sell boats from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in Lincoln. Betty Johnson, the DMV’s Administrator of Driver and Vehicle Records, tells Nebraska Watchdog that there is no such paperwork; unlike car dealers who are licensed to sell cars, boat dealers are not licensed by the State of Nebraska.
According to state and county officials the sales tax on a boat is paid the first time the boat is registered at the county treasurer’s office. But Ewing says boat dealers, unlike car dealers, do not have to provide any proof that they are legitimate dealers. Ewing says when someone registers a boat and says they are a dealer they are, “taken at their word.”
Paul Davis, the owner and general manager of Omaha Marine Center, says very few people know they can just walk in to the treasurer’s office, claim to be a dealer and walk out without paying the sales tax. Davis says attempts to tighten the law have never been successful. In March of 2007 Rogert told the Lincoln Journal Star that he is a “river rat” who grew up on the Missouri River. Rogert also told the newspaper his boat is “loud…it holds a lot of people and creates a lot of fun.”
Nebraska Watchdog has tried to contact Rogert with a series of additional questions but Rogert has not responded. He has refused to show Nebraska Watchdog a copy of the “piece of paper” he received from the State and refused to say how much he paid for the boat.
Boat dealers tell Nebraska Watchdog that Rogert’s boat would have cost about $40,000 in 2002, leaving Rogert a sales tax bill of at least $3,000. When Nebraska Watchdog initially contacted Rogert and asked if he paid the sales tax Rogert said, “I don’t remember.”
Reported by Joe Jordan firstname.lastname@example.org