The wife of Ocean County GOP Chair George Gilmore is suing the couple's former accountant and his firm, alleging he knew her husband was behind on his taxes for several years and should have advised her to file separate tax returns instead of a joint return.
Joanne Gilmore is seeking "compensatory and consequential damages" from the accountant, Robert Hutchins and WithumSmith + Brown, the firm from which he has since retired.
But an attorney for the defendants said the five-count lawsuit, which was filed in July in Superior Court in Ocean County, looks like a way for the Gilmores to get the firm to pay the couple's massive tax liability, which ultimately led to George Gilmore's federal indictment and conviction on three tax-related counts. He was later pardoned by former President Donald Trump.
As of 2021, George and Joanne Gilmore owed almost $2.9 million in federal back taxes, according to a document filed by the Internal Revenue Service with the Ocean County Clerk's Office. A federal tax judge's decisionfrom April 2022, however, pegged the liability at about $1.6 million.
"It certainly does appear …. that [the lawsuit] is a way to try to hoist the couple's tax problem onto [the accounting firm] instead of dealing with it themselves," Thomas Quinn, an attorney for Hutchins and the firm, said in a phone interview.
An attorney for Joanne Gilmore did not respond to an email and call seeking comment.
Context: George Gilmore was the unrivaled leader of the Ocean County GOP - the most powerful Republican organization in New Jersey - when he was indicted in 2019 on six federal charges of tax evasion, filing false returns, failing to turn over payroll taxes for his law firm's employees and making a false statement on a loan application.
He was convicted on three counts regarding the payroll taxes and loan application, but the jury could not reach a verdict on the tax evasion charge and acquitted Gilmore of filing false returns. Gilmore was sentenced to a year in prison but was pardoned by Trump before serving any time.
After his conviction, Gilmore resigned his party post. But after his pardon, he returned to New Jersey politics, backing rival candidates rather than those endorsed by his successors in the Ocean County GOP. In July, Gilmore narrowly won a hotly-contested election to return as county chair, though his once solid control of the party has diminished as it has splintered into rival factions.
Gilmore's former law firm, Gilmore & Monahan, which received between $2 million and $3 million in public contracts each year prior to his indictment, is now defunct.
Joanne Gilmore is now taking on some politically-connected work, co-founding an engineering firm that's seeking business in several municipalities and taking a partnership in a politically-connected LLC that's developing an apartment building in Seaside Heights.
The lawsuit's allegations: Joanne Gilmore alleges in her lawsuit that she had a small income (she was a legal assistant at Gilmore & Monahan) and was "not privy to the [couple's] financial information, as [it] was totally handled by George."
The lawsuit claims Hutchins was aware the Gilmores owed the IRS hundreds of thousands of dollars for each of the 2013, 2014 and 2015 tax years as well as unspecified late payments in previous years.
"Although both Joanne and George filed joint returns, [Joanne Gilmore] was never advised by Defendants Hutchins and Withum or anyone else associated with Defendant Withum that she had the right to file a separate return," the lawsuit reads. "...[I]f in fact [Joanne Gilmore] had been advised that she had the right to file a separate return, the Internal Revenue Service could not have filed liens or engaged in collection practices against [her] for money owed on George's tax return, had he filed a separate return."
Joanne Gilmore claims it was not until April 2019 - the month her husband was convicted - that she met with another accountant who, according to the lawsuit, "advised her that she should be filing separate federal and state tax returns so as to avoid any collection practices for unpaid taxes which were really owed on the income earned by George."
"If Plaintiff had been aware of the negligent acts of Defendants earlier than when she was advised, she would have brought an action at an earlier time," the lawsuit states.
In a Sept. 16 response to the lawsuit, Hutchins and the firm denied knowing about the huge tax liability and claim Joanne Gilmore has failed to "mitigate the damages" by "applying to the Internal Revenue Service as an 'innocent spouse' to seek amelioration of and/or forgiveness."
According to the lawsuit, Joanne Gilmore "knowingly accepted and shared the benefit of her husband's income without either verifying taxes were paid or ignored this issue (if she did not otherwise know) and the amount of untaxed income she enjoyed must be treated as a constructive trust and offsets any damages awarded against defendants," the response reads.
Hutchins and the firm also filed a "third-party complaint" to add George Gilmore as a defendant, claiming that if Joanne Gilmore is awarded any damages, they should come from her husband.
"[A]ny and all sums which [the accountants] may be required to pay in this action are the sole responsibility of Third Party Defendant George Gilmore, and should be an offset to any award in Plaintiff's favor," the response reads.