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Court records show Cedar Rapids mayoral candidate Amara Andrews owes Illinois builder after a history of liens

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Court records show Cedar Rapids mayoral candidate Amara Andrews and her husband owe Illinois builder for their custom built house after a history of liens to the IRS and AZ housing community.

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) - An Illinois home builder says Cedar Rapids mayoral candidate Amara Andrews is in default of a settlement agreement for money she and her husband Kahlil owe him for their custom built house in Illinois.

Iowa Field Report first reported on Andrews' history of liens -- a 2006 housing lien in Arizona and an IRS lien for three years of unpaid taxes.

Andrews, who is a lawyer, told other news organizations last week that her debts were "remedied." But, court records show that's not true.

It was during those years of unpaid federal taxes that the Andrews borrowed from the Illinois builder for the construction of their custom home. Reggie Phillips sold the home to the Andrews on contract with zero money down. The Andrews' added specific features and amenities -- increasing the price of the contract to more than $718,000.

"They wanted to finish off the theatre room. And then, they wanted to have the basketball court with the two goals," Phillips said.

Documents show the Andrews' moved into that house in September of 2012 -- the same time period identified as when they were not paying their federal taxes -- and made payments to Phillips.  Court records indicate that payments stopped 12 months later.

"They stopped making the payments and they were gone. They vanished. And we didn't know where they went," Phillips said.

He says he found the Andrews' when her husband was interviewed on television.

"We were setting there on that house, $750,000, chasing them and we couldn't sell it because they had a contract that said they owned it, even though they weren't making payments on it," Phillips said.

The Andrews' agreed to return the house to Phillips.  In 2014, Phillips sued the Andrews for more than $200,000 -- the difference between the cost to build it and the sale price -- and 4 years of real estate taxes.

Both sides settled for $150,000 to be paid over 7 years.

"I said, "Listen, I'll cut that down to $150,000. I'll eat $75,000 and we'll set it up on payments," Phillips said.

He says, as with the house payments, those settlement payments stopped as well.

Last March, a judge ordered Andrews' wages in Cedar Rapids to be garnished in order to pay Phillips.

Last August, 4 years into the 7-year payment plan, the court found the Andrews' were nearly $70,000 behind in payments.

"The bill is not relevant to Cedar Rapids. It is old and as you mentioned, we have been paying," Andrews said.

Andrews faces Mayor Brad Hart in the November election. She's running on issues such as "paying your fair share," and has criticized Hart for causing $2.3 million in unpaid bills.

"The financial problems that we face as individuals, I don't think, are relevant for this position as mayor. I understand that they are disturbing," Andrews said, "We were not trying to get something for nothing or not trying to pay our fair share...I don't think voters are interested in my taxes from over ten years ago. When we had the means, we paid them off. And the issue with the builder, it's a dispute," Andrews said.

Documents show the Andrews did not pay the IRS lien until August of last year and the dispute ended in a judgment against them.

Attorney Corey Lorenzen offered his opinion, "From a personal standpoint, I think it would be considered a character issue, but again, that would be something for the voters to decide," Lorenzen said.

Tyler Gustafson is one such voter.  He says he is one of the undecided voters in the mayoral election. "It's not just one event. One thing can happen to anyone but when it's this pattern of several things over quite a few years, it gives me pause about voting for her," Gustafson said.

If Andrews is elected, she would be a voting member of the Cedar Rapids City Council on a $140 million budget.

Andrews says the media examination of her financial problems is a partisan attack to smear her.

In a YouTube video Andrews released on Tuesday Oct. 19, she insists the focus on her past finances are an attempt discredit her, and that millions of Americans are going through the same financial problems she did. 

"I'm running for those individuals who find themselves in a financial spiral that they can't seem to shake," Andrews said in the video. "We need a leader who can understand and relate to the struggles of ordinary people."

KWWL spoke with all of the candidates for mayor and checked their records, too.

Candidate Myra Bradwell had judgments that were paid off or released in bankruptcy.  He says he fell on hard times during his divorce.

Other candidates for Cedar Rapids mayor include Tiffany O'Donnell and Myra Colby Bradwell.  Early absentee voting started last week.