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Rep. Bartlett says underreporting of about $1 million in property sales wasn't deliberate

July 21, 2008

FREDERICK, Md. -- Rep. Roscoe Bartlett has underreported or failed to report roughly $1 million in property sales since 2004, a newspaper reports.

Bartlett, R-Md., told The Frederick News-Post that the omissions, involving at least four properties, reflected a combination of inattentiveness and confusion by himself and others about the deals.

"Nothing sinister, not trying to hide anything," Bartlett said.

He said he would amend the reports to correct the discrepancies.

Bartlett is running for a ninth term representing the 6th District, which includes all or part of eight counties from the state's western border to the Susquehanna River.

The News-Post reported the discrepancies Sunday after comparing Bartlett's federally mandated personal financial disclosure forms with state property records.

Under federal law, members of Congress must disclose details of their finances annually, including their earned and unearned income, assets, gifts and travel. Failing to file a disclosure statement carries a civil penalty of up to $11,000. Falsifying a statement can carry the fine plus criminal penalties of up to five years imprisonment.

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The News-Post reported that Bartlett failed to disclose the sale of a house near Mount Pleasant, Md., for $449,000 in 2004. He bought the house for $180,000 in 2001, according to state property records.

The newspaper said Bartlett also failed to disclose the sale of a house in Knoxville, Md., for $299,900 in 2006. He bought the building for $42,000 in 2000, according to the report.

Bartlett blamed both omissions on confusion about addresses. He said the Liberty Road property was confused with an adjacent one because it was split off from a larger parcel.

He said the Knoxville house was one of several he owns in the area. State records and Bartlett's financial disclosures show he owns or has owned other nearby properties over the years. One of them he reported owning for several years after state records show it was sold.

Bartlett said he was only peripherally involved in the restoration of the Knoxville house.

"I really was a bit player," he said. "My son rebuilt the houses; my wife wrote the checks."

Bartlett reported selling a house in Ijamsville, Md., in 2004 for $50,000 to $100,001. State property records list the sale price as $435,000.

Bartlett blamed that error on staff not reading his handwritten notes correctly. He said he signed the finished form without reading it, something he said he shouldn't have done.

Dan Auble, financial disclosure researcher with the watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics, said lawmakers' financial disclosure forms are vetted by legislative ethics committees before they are publicly released, but it's hard for anyone to know what's not there.

Bartlett reported overall assets of $1.8 million to $6.8 million, mostly tied up in his Buckeystown Pike home, which he reported as valued between $1 million and $5 million.

His Democratic challenger, Jennifer Dougherty, reported assets valued between $256,000 and $591,000, mostly in the form of her namesake restaurant in Frederick, which she reported as valued between $250,001 and $500,000.

The newspaper said its review of Dougherty's personal financial disclosure form and state property records revealed no discrepancies.

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