HAVERHILL — Senate candidate Shaun Toohey faced over $12,000 in IRS liens for failing to pay taxes and spent several years in his late teens and early 20’s as a stripper in a male review, according to a public records review of the Republican nominee in the hotly-contested First Essex District Senate race.
“It was a part-time job,” said Toohey, 43, who was born in Methuen and grew up in Lawrence. “I was in great shape, and me and a couple guys I was friends with did it to make some money and have some fun. I met a lot of great people and I’m not ashamed of it.”
But that’s not the only thing discovered in a public records search of Toohey’s name. According to the Southern Essex County Registry of Deeds, the IRS put a lien on Toohey for failure to pay $12,042 in income taxes in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000.
Toohey, a self-employed mortgage banker and a member of the Haverhill School Committee since 2001, paid the tax bill and the lien was removed in February 2010, according to documents on file with the registry office in Salem, Mass.
The federal tax lien lists Toohey’s home at 696 Crystal St. as his residence, but Toohey said the lien wasn’t on that property because the home is solely in his wife’s name.
Toohey said the he got in trouble with the IRS “14 or 15 years ago” as a result of some business problems. He said he made an agreement with the tax agency to make annual payments on the debt and eventually paid it off in 2010.
“I was struggling financially for several years in the late 1990s, but I persevered and turned my business around,” Toohey said. “It was a very difficult time for me and my family. But I’m up to date on all my taxes now.”
A three-term Haverhill School Committee member, Toohey is running against Democrat Kathleen O’Connor Ives of Newburyport and unenrolled candidates Paul Magliocchetti of Haverhill and James Kelcourse of Amesbury. Issues around taxes, economic development and jobs have dominated the discourse at several debates among the candidates leading up to the Nov. 6 election.
Toohey has said his top priority, if elected, would be to see both the state’s 6.25 percent sales and 5.3 percent income taxes reduced to 5 percent.
“All my campaign I’ve been saying I know how all small businesses struggle and I can relate to individuals who feel there’s no light at the end of the tunnel because I was one of them,” Toohey said. “But I never gave up on my business or myself and I’ll never give up on the citizens of the First Essex District.”
Toohey’s dancing days
Toohey was one of several adult dancers in “New England’s Ultimate Male Revue.” In a flier that was evidence in a copyright complaint filed with the state, Toohey appears in jeans and an unbuttoned vest next to two shirtless males and behind a motorcycle and another partially-clothed man lying on the ground.
Toohey said he never was completely nude and that his mother and sister attended some of his shows.
“I always wanted to be an actor when I was young,” Toohey said. “I always loved dancing and entertaining people. It was just a way to make a few bucks. It was 20 years ago, but it was fun and I don’t regret it.”
According to corporation papers on file with the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office, Toohey was president of Men-In-Motion and one of two directors in the company formed in 1992. Toohey said he never owned Men-In-Motion, despite the corporation papers. He said the filing was the result of a rift among some of the guys he danced with.
“One of the guys said he had the right to the Men-In-Motion name, so we wanted to use the name for our company,” Toohey said. “Someone had to be on the corporation papers, so I said I’d do it. But it was never my company.”
Toohey said it turned out the Men-In-Motion name was already under a copyright agreement, so he gave up the company soon after forming it.