Gwen Klingenberg is running for one of three seats opening on the Lawrence City Commission, while still in the shadow of filing for bankruptcy just four months ago.
“I was upfront and honest with everybody about this,” Klingenberg said of the Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection that she and her husband sought. “But I still had people telling me to go through with the campaign. They said lots of people were going through this.
“And this was related to a medical condition. It was not because I didn’t want to work or was lazy.”
Here are some of the details of the bankruptcy:
● Klingenberg hurt her back by lifting several large containers of paint while working as an office employee for Lawrence Habitat for Humanity in March 2007. The injury required two surgeries. Klingenberg filed for workers compensation, and was unemployed for about 18 months, she said. Klingenberg said the time she was off work should have been shorter, but she said the state’s workers compensation program delayed approving her second surgery.
● During the time that Klingenberg was off work, she and her husband — a Journal-World pressman — were unable to keep up with their bills. According to the bankruptcy filing, Klingenberg and her husband owe 40 creditors a total of $80,448. The amount does not include the couple’s mortgage. The creditors include credit card companies, payday loan companies, and a handful of local businesses. Overall — when the couple’s mortgage and personal property are included in the equation — the filing lists the couple as having $233,003 in liabilities and $237,210 in assets.
● According to the filing, the couple was responsible for writing some checks without having sufficient funds to cover the checks. The filing lists eight instances where creditors are claiming checks were bounced. The checks totaled $1,007.
● The filing details that the couple was having trouble paying their federal and state income taxes prior to Klingenberg’s medical problems in 2007. The filing includes claims from the Internal Revenue Service and the Kansas Department of Revenue for tax payments from 2005, 2006 and 2007. The couple owe a total of $11,498 in tax payments to the state and federal government.
Klingenberg said she’s not entirely clear how the couple fell behind in their tax payments.
“We’re not exactly sure what happened,” said Klingenberg, who said she and her husband mistakenly believed they were having enough money taken out of their paychecks to cover their taxes.
Klingenberg said she and her husband were in contact with the IRS prior to the bankruptcy filing to try to rectify the back taxes.
Klingenberg said her financial problems should not cause people to have concerns about her ability to serve on the commission, which oversees the city’s budget of approximately $146 million. Klingenberg said much of her financial problems were out of her control because of the slow response time by the workers compensation program to approve her surgery and benefits.
“My hands were tied,” Klingenberg said. “I was not allowed to work. When somebody else is controlling your life, it is impossible to keep your head above water.”