Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Sometimes Rumors Are True

Posted by David Keelan on Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I heard a rumor during the campaign for County Executive.  It was September or October 2006.  We got an anonymous email tip.  Some of us discussed it and we said we couldn’t do anything with it because the tipster was anonymous, and wouldn’t follow up with us.  We felt it was just too scandelous and hot to touch without proof.  We even thought about giving it to a reporter and let them run with it (maybe it is time to reconsider that again).  We didn’t even go that far.  However, if the tables had been turned Ken Ulman would have gone to every reporter this side of the Patapsco.

The email said something like this:  “What would you do if you knew Ken Ulman had an illegal alien working as his housekeeper?”

Well, I had completely forgotten about it.  Completely!

Then I read today’s news.  Ulman dismisses illegal housekeeper

Ken Ulman says:

The woman has lived in the United States about 15 years, Ulman said, and “it never occurred to me” that she was not a legal resident.

“I have conflicted feelings,” said Ulman, who checked on the woman’s status after an inquiry from a reporter. “She is a good person who deceived me. She knew she was illegal, and she didn’t tell me.”

Hmmm.  Back in Sept/Oct someone knew she was not a legal resident and they contacted the Merdon campaign.  A reporter just happend to recently inquire.  How long has this rumor been around?  How could it be that the Ulman’s didn’t know if the Merdon campaign knew.

Should we give Ken the benefit of the doubt?

This should not go away.

As Larry Carson sums up in his article – similiar issues did not go away for other people in the same situation:

A number of public figures have had problems with employment of illegal immigrants. Linda Chavez withdrew as President Bush’s first nominee to be labor secretary in early 2001 after news reports that from 1991 to 1993 she housed and occasionally gave money to an illegal Guatemalan immigrant woman who also did housework for her.

Earlier, Zoe E. Baird, former President Bill Clinton’s nominee for attorney general in 1993, was disqualified after admitting she knowingly employed an illegal immigrant as a nanny. Early in 1993, then-Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown disclosed on television that he had failed to pay Social Security taxes for a part-time domestic worker for four years.

“I am annoyed at myself for making a mistake and not filing the 1099,” Ulman said. “Since she wasn’t an employee, I knew I didn’t have to withhold taxes.”

I feel comfortable writing this because enough people saw this email to back me up.


My nanny (domestic) says she’s an independent contractor and doesn’t want taxes withheld. Can I do that?
The simple answer is no. The IRS has strict guidelines to define employees and independent contractors (Refer to IRS Publication 926). Nannies and other domestics are generally considered employees. It does not matter how the employee refers to herself or how you refer to her in an employment contract. You are obligated for all payroll tax filings and remittances.  The IRS has reaffirmed this stance twice in 1999. In two private letter rulings (PLR 199923014 and 199923015) the IRS disregarded a written contract’s designation of a worker as a contractor, ruling that the substance of the relationship and not its label determines the worker’s status.


30 Responses to “Sometimes Rumors Are True”

  1. What did Ulman know and when did he know it?

  2. The Ridger said

    Anybody who pays somebody cash and doesn’t report it knows something’s going on. Either he knew she was illegal or he knew she was cheating the IRS – and he was abetting whichever it was.

  3. anonymous said

    Looks like he’s got some ‘splaining to do. A lot of ‘splaining. You’re right. This should NOT go away. I wonder why Mr. Carson waited so long to look into this issue. Why didn’t he do it BEFORE the election? I guarantee if the same allegation had been ldoged against Merdon, or any republican candidate, Larry would would have pounced in an instant.

    This is simply more proof that Ken Ulman is the lying snake that many commenters on this and other blogs have been saying all along. He should be brought up on tax evasion charges – at the least. We’re supposed to believe that he didn’t know – but he’s a lawyer, and a legislator, so that excuse is pathetic, absoultely pathetic.

  4. Andy Dufresne said

    I’m pissed at Ullman, for firing the woman. While I’d love to build a huge freaking wall between the US and Mexico and put a 1/2 mile barrier of land mines on our side of the wall, I think the vast majority of the illegal immigrants, especially the Spanish speaking ones, are coming to this country to work hard and make a better life for them selves and their children. Which is great deal better than the mentality of many of our indigenous lower-socio economic urban citizens.

    This woman probably supports her family, sends them to schools, pays sales taxes and doesn’t earn enough to pay income taxes anyway. She won’t apply for Section 8 housing or an Independence Card.

    These immigrant manual laborers are doing a great job and working and not collecting welfare.

    Ullman proves he lacks real character by not standing up for this woman. She’s the poor and the downtrodden, yearning to be free. Not some incipient, welfare loving loafer who wants to move from the inner city to Howard County to take advantage of the generosity of the taxpayers but acts like they’re back in the projects. Bringing the crime level up and the school system down.

    Bravo to the hard workers who come to America, it’s too bad we have to send you back instead of the indigenous criminal element.

  5. anonymous said

    Andy Dufresne – are you making racilly dicriminatory statements? “Indigenous, lower socio economic urban citizens”? Just who are you referring to?

    I don’t care how hard she works, or how hard any ILLEGAL immigrant/alien works, they are here ILLEGALLY and are not entitled to any legal rights or my sympathy. They are a drain on the government’s revenue that should be used for LEGAL immigrants and citizens. My grandfather, who was a WWII veteran could barely get crappy medical care at a VA hospital. But some scofflaw who crawls over a border line under dark of night is entitled to free education, welfare, and medical service – without ever paying taxes?!?!?! Do you think if I illegally entered any other country in the world, that that government would give me all of these types of services – for free??!?! They’d throw me in jail, and rightly so.

    Ulman obviously, knowingly, helped this woman avoid paying taxes like every other person in this country. That makes him an accomplice. End of story.

  6. Andy,

    Are you suggesting that Ulman should willingly and knowingly violate the law?

  7. Keep Up the Good Work said

    Wait – I though the Dems said Ulman was not wealthy enough to afford to sell his minivan?! Now we find out he had a housekeeper?!

    Are we still supposed to be impressed that his wife has a part-time job AND kids?!

  8. David, if the cleaning person held herself out to other customers and in fact had multiple customers, had business cards, scheduled cleaning according to her schedule, supplied her own gear and filed Schedule C-EZ or Schedule C, and ideally invoiced Ulman for itemized services monthly rather than weekly or biweekly, she would have a decent shot of being a 1099 non-employee comparable to, say, Terminix or the plumber you call twice a year. There are cleaning companies and there are self-employed truly independent contractors who have schedules, routes, multiple customers, standardized fees, business cards and Chamber of Commerce memberships.

    None of this happened, I am certain, in this case. Ulman may – or in fairness may not – have dug himself in badly by filing 1099. Not only will the IRS probably not like it, unless I am wrong on the facts, but the Maryland Court of Appeals takes a very dim view of attorneys fooling with trust money, which is what an employer properly holds as trustee for the employee and the U.S. Treasury when he or she properly withholds taxes. Ulman has a law license and was a partner in a very prestigious law firm in Towson and Columbia unless I am mistaken. Willful failure to file income taxes is a suspendable offense in MD as are some forms of mishandling of trust money. How this would apply here is unclear, but the Court of Appeals did once disbar an attorney for putting a slug in a parking meter in Baltimore. (If you are an attorney you may know all of this but some of your readers may not.)

    On the other hand, it is entirely possible that the facts will largely or completely exonerate Ulman so I do not wish to prejudge or otherwise be irresponsible here.

  9. Bruce,

    Very interesting commentary. Thanks for taking the time. Ken Ulman disbared? Hmm. I think the political machine will protect him. However, he may have violated the Attorney’s Rules of Professional Conduct. I wonder if someone will file a formal complaint with the Court of Appeals Attorney Grievance Commission. You are absolutely right. A Harford County lawyer was disbared this year for the same thing regarding witholding taxes.

    Commission reprimand for failing to maintain, in trust, funds representing withholding taxes, failing to remit those taxes to federal and state tax authorities. He also failed on several occasions to maintain sufficient funds in his payroll account to cover employee checks which were returned for insufficient funds.

    You can see the account here

  10. Lance Armstrong said

    What about Ullman’s failure to have the water main project completed on time? This thing was supposed to be fixed last year, yet here we are again on water restrictions.

    Great job, Ken!

  11. Freemarket said

    Bruce- I don’t think the “attorney handling Trust money” issue is applicable since no taxes should have been withheld to an independent contractor. That is more of a W-2 thing. Also, I don’t believe that Ken Ulman was a partner in a law firm. The “Ulman” on the door refers to his father. Regardless, it was REALLY foolish of Ulman to put himself in this situation.

    Looking at the bigger picture, illegal immigration is one of the areas where I disagree with Republicans the most. I don’t understand why the Republican line of attack is always “It’s illegal- send them back” and not “it’s illegal- let’s amend the law so they can work.” As long as people are willing to hire “illegals”, and the “illegals” are willing to work, I don’t see what the big deal is. What we should do is expand guest worker programs. Our current policy approach does nothing but beg for a black market in cheap labor. The comment from Anon 1:18 is an argument for welfare state reform, not an argument against illegal workers.

  12. FM,

    You are correct relative to Ken being a partner.

    As to the GOP or even your position on immigration law. That doesn’t matter in this case. Not one bit. The big deal is that it is the law and we are a country that respects the rule of law. As an attorney Ken Ulman pledged to uphold the rule of law. As an elected public official he and as an attorney he took an oath to respect the law in his professional and personal life.

  13. wordbones said

    How about a reality check here folks…

    The sad truth is that virtually everyone around here is guilty of employing illegal immigrants either directly or indirectly. Whether it is the cleaning service you use for your home or the landscaping company that takes care of the common areas in your condominium project (they were the low bid for reason)there is a very high probabilty that an illegal immigrant has provided services to each and everyone of us. They are everywhere and we are all guilty. Ken Ulman is no different than this rest of us in this regard and consequently this issue needs to kept in perspective.


  14. WB,

    Thanks. There is a difference between knowingly and unknowingly or directly or indirectly employing illegal immigrants. That is an important point here.

    I can only speak for myself.

    Although I have been encouraged to hire illegal immigrants for yard work around my home I have never done so for the simple reason that it is illegal and I would not knowingly break the law. For example, I am currently in the process of resetting the pavers on my patio. It is a big and dirty job. I have 1 ton of #2 construction stone and 1 ton of stone dust sitting on my driveway. It is hard work. I was approached about hiring illegal labor to help me with the job. With the extra labor I could get the work done in a weekend rather than the three weekends it will take me to do by myself. I politely declined.

    In addition, when I hire a contractor I ensure that they are all licensed and bonded. Are they using illegal immigrant labor – I honestly don’t know and from appearances it doesn’t seem to be the case.

    To Dave Wissing’s point and the fact that the rumor of her status being about 1 year old “What did Ken know and when did he know it”.

  15. Freemarket – thank you for the correction. If County Executive Ken Ulman – NOT Louis Ulman – is licensed in any capacity, however, he is indeed under the jurisdiction of the rules. Client Protection Fund lists Ken Ulman as currently licensed.

    Failing to do the withholding on the taxes if required is arguably a trust violation since the trust is imposed by law, rather than by agreement. I have information of a case several years ago where the AGC went after an attorney of my acquaintance in another county in part because she or he treated her punch-in, punch-out full-time employees as independent contractors, and did not withhold. I do not know how the Court of Appeals would treat misclassifying an employee in (hypothetical!) bad faith and not withholding and matching the FICA part of the withhold, as opposed to embezzling a withhold. It is NOT clear to me, however, whether (KEN) Ulman should have withheld employment taxes or whether this worker really, really did meet the independent contractor test. If she did, he is fine on that issue (and may be fine due to other facts that I don’t know.)

    Also, I don’t believe – though have not verified – that a customer violates the law by engaging a bona fide independent contractor who is here illegally. Customers of non-employees are not required as I understand it to research the immigration status of non-employees. Form I-9 is an employment form; if you call a plumber you need not check his immigration papers or birth certificate when he drags his toolbox and plumber butt into your bathroom, or make him drop the wrench and sign an I-9.

    The term “disbarred” is reserved for the severest form of attorney discipline – presumptively permanent license destruction. An attorney who eats a reprimand is not disbarred but is “disciplined.”

  16. Freemarket said

    I am not trying to make an apology for Ulman’s mistake; he screwed up and now he is the target of easy criticism. I find it suspicious that he filed the 1099 after he “found out” she was illegal. 1099’s were due back in February.

    However, David’s landscaping project is a great example of why an expansion of guest worker programs is a good idea. The workers are happy to do the job, and David would be happy to pay them, but our government does not allow these two parties to legally transact with each other. What kind of sense does this make?

  17. Anonymous said

    Freemarket – the ends don’t justify the means. Plus, it’s a slap in the face of the MILLIONS of immigrants who have followed the laws and gone through the LEGAL process to just allow amnesty to those who did not. What kind of message would that send? Rules are rules, and without them there is anarchy. Is that what you want? I know lots of contractors who have been run out of business because they can’t bid jobs for the price that illegal immigrants can. There is a reason why the process is long and cumbersome. It’s to make sure that people going through it actually care about this country and aren’t here just to suck the money and free services out the USA and send it back to their mother country. Plus, last I checked this is still a democracy and a majority of the citizens (the legal ones anyway) and legislators feel differently than you.

  18. Freemarket said

    Anon- you make absolutely no sense. I am not suggesting amnesty; I am suggesting a fundamental policy shift regarding immigrant workers. If you are concerned about contractors being run out of business, then you should embrace programs that allow contractors to legally employ foreign workers. Otherwise, law abiding contractors and other employers are at the mercy of those who have no qualms about hiring illegal workers.

    “Plus, last I checked this is still a democracy and a majority of the citizens (the legal ones anyway) and legislators feel differently than you.”

    I am sure that at some point someone said that same thing to Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln. I guess if the majority of people jumped off a bridge, I should do it too.

    Anon, all you have to do now is rant about the homosexual agenda and you can run for State Delegate, district 9A.

  19. FM, that last sentence really wasn’t necessary and unfair. Did you ever speak with our delegates from 9A about this issue? To your point if the majority of peopl jomped off a bridge, they should too, right. Why don’t you contact them – they would be happy to speak with you about that issue and many others. Let me know when you do.

  20. Third Eye said

    David, are you saying that the 9A delegates are not against the “homosexual agenda”? Are you implying that they have not voted to ban gay marriage in the state of Maryland?

    If so, you need to do a little research.

  21. No that is not what I am saying. I am asking has FM talked to them about it with them. The story isn’t so black and white. I have talked to them about the issue. It is easy to call a person a bigot…

  22. Zinzindor said

    Some of the discussion here completely loses perspective. What are the facts here? Housekeeper provides services for family. Family pays housekeeper. A voluntary transaction, everyone gains, nobody loses. The only complainant here is the state, which isn’t getting its cut.

  23. Matt said

    I find myself kind of agreeing with Andy Dufresne. Why didn’t Ulman stick up for this woman? Instead he acted like a coward and did what was best for him instead of helping this woman through the process. He might as well of pushed her in front of a bus.

  24. Matt,

    My guess is Ulman has plans for higher office in his future. Having on his record payments to a known illegal alien is probably not something he wants. As David Keelan points out, many high profile nominees have had their nominations scuttled for this single issue alone (Zoe Baird and Linda Chavez to name two recent cases). He hopes, I am sure, that a quick dismissal of this illegal alien, once he supposedly knew she was illegal, will prevent this from hurting himself in future political endeavors.

    Plus, maybe he feels he should, as County Executive…you know…FOLLOW THE LAW!…

  25. ToDaveWissing said

    Ulman has no shot at a higher office. The Democrats would be wise to find someone qualified to run instead. He has hurt himself big time. Between his fake resume and now the illegal alien, forget it.

    Oh and his cronyism.

    Oh and his firing of county employees he pledged to keep on.

    Oh and his broken promises regarding the tower too.

    Oh and his negative campaigns against Mary Kay and Merdon.

    And this is just Year 1 of a 4 year term!

    Also, I don’t think it WAS a quick dismissal, if you read the original post. It sounds like Ulman knew last fall or chose not to worry about it.

  26. Anonymous said

    To Freemarket – maybe I misunderstood your comment about work visas. DOn’t know exactly how that program works. But, it seems to me that it would still hurt existing contractors (that are legal citizens). I know that your proposal might a better situation than what is currently happening – Lord knows it couldn’t make it worse – but I’m a stickler when it comes to the law. I don’t like people “bending” the laws – it muddies the water and I much prefer clear water. Hope you don’t think I was jumping down your throat too harshly.

  27. observer said

    Sorry, I missed the chance to comment on this earlier. KEN ULMAN IS A LIAR AND A BUFFOON. This is almost as hilarious as Hillary saying she didn’t know about Bill and Monica. Can’t we find some responsible adult to run for County Executive?

  28. Anne said

    My question would be how can Ulman afford a housekeeper?

  29. Dave said

    I agree.. He knows something and is clearly not reporting it for whatever reason. But it will catch up to him.

  30. […] Keelan at Howard County Maryland Blog has some personal involvement in this story and questions Ulman’s […]

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