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VENTURA COUNTY

$240,000 in Support Owed by Candidate

October 29, 2002|Jessica Blanchard | Special to The Times

School board candidate Walt Madrid owes his ex-wife more than $240,000 in child support, but that should not influence voters in the Nov. 5 election, he says.

"This is my personal life," said Madrid, 51, a U.S. Census Bureau employee in Simi Valley. "People that know me, know me as an individual. And I'm just going to leave it at that."

Madrid is one of four candidates running for the vacant District 4 seat, representing Simi Valley and Moorpark on the Ventura County Board of Education. His responsibilities as a board member would include approving the budget and reviewing audits.

Madrid confirmed the debt to Irene Madrid, his wife until the couple divorced about a decade ago after having three children. Despite automatic reductions from his paycheck, he said the huge debt is still growing.

That is partly because his payments are based on a $50,000 annual salary he received in a previous job at Litton Guidance and Control in Woodland Hills. He now makes about $30,000 a year, he said.

The monthly payment amounts to about 50% of his net pay, he said.

Madrid said he meant to appeal to reduce the payment, but hasn't done so.

"It's nobody's fault but my own," he said. "I should have taken care of it."

Irene Madrid said Walt Madrid owes $170,432 in child support and about $69,600 in interest, and that he pays child support only when the amounts are deducted from his wages.

Stan Trom, director of county child support services, said confidentiality laws prevent him from discussing the case.

The average child support debt of a delinquent parent is $11,000, which makes a $240,000 debt among the largest sums owed in the county, he said.

The county maintains a list of the 10 most-wanted "deadbeat dads" who have outstanding warrants for their arrest for willful failure to pay child support. The top offender on the most recent list owed $142,162.

Altogether, about $400 million in child support is owed in Ventura County, Trom said.

Irene Madrid said her husband has frequently changed jobs over the last 10 years.

"It wasn't until he got the census job that he started paying child support on a regular basis," she said.

Irene Madrid said she has given up on collecting all the money owed. "I'll never get all of that," she said.

County prosecutors file criminal charges in some delinquent child support cases, but the amount owed is not the sole factor, Trom said.

"It isn't necessarily the amount of the arrears. If a person is currently paying, we generally don't file charges," he said.

Irene Madrid said she and her husband remain on good terms. He often drives their three children to school in the morning.

"I've always tried to do the best I can for the kids," Walt Madrid said. "I'm very involved with their lives."

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