'Sonics Guy' fundraiser raises question about tax issues
TACOMA, Wash. -- Like the team he loves so much, “Sonics Guy” Kris Brannon won't back down.
For years he has been a fixture at sporting events and council meetings, proudly clad in green and gold, pushing the city and other stakeholders to build an arena to bring back the SuperSonics.
“People love him,” said Kathleen Mitchell, who once considered Brannon a close friend.
She was drawn to his enthusiasm for the Sonics and his passion to positively represent the city of Tacoma.
“Just had a really great time. He was my friend,” she said.
But much like those SuperSonics, there's a lot more going on beneath the surface.
“I think they should know,” Mitchell said of those close to Brannon. “I think there should always be transparency in the money you're giving people.”
A newly launched fundraiser to help Brannon has started to raise questions.
In the spring of 2016, Brannon's Tacoma home was broken into and thousands of dollars worth of memorabilia was stolen, from jerseys to hats.
Mitchell sprang into action on GoFundMe to seek financial help.
“To take care of, you need to fix your door. Maybe get a moderate security system so you don`t have to worry about that kind of thing happening again?” she said.
She hoped for $1,000 but it ended up being more than $7,400.
A fundraiser at the Jazzbones Club also reportedly brought in thousands more.
“It got a little more successful than I planned on it being, which just says how much people love Kris,” Mitchell said.
Yet, that's when she says the trouble started.
Despite the skyrocketing success, Mitchell says Brannon didn't respond to GoFundMe's emails to get his money.
Months of back and forth finally led to Brannon getting access. Mitchell was ready day one.
“And if I was waiting for something, I would probably be checking all of my email accounts,” she said.
Mitchell thought that was the end of it.
But a new Brannon fundraiser starting making the rounds and was picked up by Sonics fan websites and social media accounts.
This time, he was asking for help with back taxes on his house.
Brannon wrote that the "inner workings" of crowdfunding took a financial toll after the break-in, blaming the "delay in getting funds" creating a situation where Pierce County wants all of his back property taxes.
Mitchell was blown away.
“Yeah, because that's just not true,” she said.
We went back and checked, and Brannon's back taxes timeline doesn't add up.
“It adds up to over $14,000 right now,” said Pierce County Assessor and Treasurer Mike Lonergan.
He confirmed our findings that Brannon's break-in and GoFundMe problems aren't related to his tab with the county.
Brannon has not paid a single dime in property taxes since April 2013.
“We're actually four years behind as we move through the foreclosure process without having received any payment,” Lonergan said.
The office followed state law and notified Brannon ages ago and Lonergan said staff spoke with Brannon personally.
“There is clear notification that they're behind and that they're accruing 1 percent per month interest plus some penalties,” he said.
They foreclosed on his house in May of this year and it goes up for auction in November unless he pays the full $14,000 bill.
Mitchell says Sonics Guy can't blame crowdfunding and should have been truthful.
So far, the community has donated more than $4,700, being led to believe the tax issue was connected to the break-in.
“I thought it was very unfair. It's a whole separate issue. It has nothing to do with one or the other,” Mitchell said.
Donation sites have become a huge question mark in recent years as some go viral and are a huge force of good.
Asking for help is never easy but trading on goodwill for donations is something a lot of people do.
“In essence, the government is watching what you are doing with your money,” said sports business and legal analyst Emily Compagno. She says soliciting donations can be murky.
“If you are donating to an individual, that is not a charity,” Campagno cautioned.
Goodwill matters a lot with community figures like Brannon. Compagno warns that there's never a guarantee.
“It's the exact same thing as someone on the street asking for cash as well. You are donating with the expectation merely that it will better that person's situation,” she said.
Lonergan says it doesn't really matter where the money comes from. Payment plans could have been made years ago, but Brannon didn't respond.
Now his case is one of the rarest out there.
“More than 99 percent do not get three years behind in their taxes. Less than 1 percent,” Lonergan said.
Mitchell wishes she could have kept her friendship, and wants everyone to be aware before giving money.
“But I want them to have the full facts before they support it,” she said.
Brannon did not respond to multiple offers to sit down for an interview, but said in a text message:
“After my house was burglarized, someone else did a fundraiser. I did not receive the funds for several months. During that time, my house was foreclosed upon. Pierce County is demanding a lump sum of full payment of back taxes to avoid foreclosure. The remaining funds from the first fundraiser and all the funds from this fundraiser will go to that lump payment.
Kris ‘Sonics Guy’ Brannon”
He did not reply to follow-up questions.