On June 19, 2010, CDCPTR with support of local businesses and real estate companies, sponsored the first Property Tax Appeal Help Day. Although I don’t have the full numbers of how many people came seeking help, the last count was over 125 property owners. 300 total packets of information were distributed.
Each person was greeted with a smile and handed a packet of information with step by step instructions on how to file and what to do after it has been submitted. From that point citizens were given comparable property information and then directed to a volunteer trained in assessment appeals. Delaware County Assessor, James Carmichael, spent his Saturday answering questions and assisting the public.
Matthew, a bright civic-minded student from Ball State University was busy helping with the influx of concerned property owners. Matthew is a keeper and one to watch. Others donated their Saturday morning, I can’t remember all their names.
Although, child care was not provided, a couple of us soon found ourselves being entertained by a beautiful little girl. She started out quiet and ended up singing and playing games, while her father worked on a myriad of complicated property issues inside.
Someone generously donated the food served. Mrs. Alexander took charge of the kitchen. Grilling up some of the best sausage sandwiches for the volunteers, and burgers for anyone which had a hankering to eat.
Jim Arnold, a prolific writer of letters in the local newspaper, seemed to be quite an attraction. Several people asked about him and wanted to meet the dude.
Although, it is still too early to determine if any person won their appeal, at least two people found their property tax caps were wrong and received instructions on how to get a refund.
It was a wonderful opportunity to give back to the community and meet so many fine people. Almost everyone had a story to tell. We hope this will be an annual event and we learned quite a bit which will help the process run even smoother next year.
A very big thank you to the citizens and property owners for helping to make this a success. Good luck on your appeals.
Something extraordinary happened today for Delaware County. Justice was served on a golden platter.
As some of you know, Chris Hiatt of Citizens of Delaware County for Property Tax Repeal was indicted in April of ’09 on changes of election violation. (This blog has a few posts covering this topic in more detail.) Today, Special Judge Jay Toney dismissed the charges. Let’s do a quick background on how this all came about.
In November ’08 CDCPTR took out an ad in the local newspaper, The Star Press. The ad endorsed candidates from both parties which were believed to be citizen and taxpayer friendly based upon their platform and campaigns.
Within weeks of this ad, another group, ECIBT (East Central Indiana Building Trades) took offense and filed a complaint with the election board. Their chief complaint was the ad had no disclaimer. One would consider this a possible violation, of sorts, except for one little pesky detail. ECIBT did the same. They endorsed all Democrats, had no disclaimer and in fact they had no address.
After weeks of delay, the election board finally decided to serve papers notifying Mr. Hiatt he was summoned to appear before the election board. What happened at the hearing was just a lot of legalities and twisting and turning of Indiana State law until it became apparent to most, there was some hanky panky going on with the current election board.
In turn, a complaint was filed against ECIBT for the exact same violation. Lo and behold, the Delaware County Clerk recused himself, since he was trying to avoid the conflict of interest “thingy”. Of course, he sat on the board during Hiatt’s hearing. I am having a hard time understanding the definition of “conflict of interest” as it was presented by Mr. Craycraft.
The Delaware County prosecutor, Mr. Mark McKinney convened a grand jury and sure enough, but no surprise, Hiatt was indicted.
Some of you may be wondering what happened to the complaint against ECBIT for the exact same violation. One word. NOTHING.
Today however marks a milestone in Delaware County. Justice was served and served properly. Of course, we had to leave the county and get a special judge. Nonetheless, it is a good day.
Just for fun, I pulled together some quotes from the local newspapers on this dark time in our county’s history.
Judge Throws Hiatt’s Case Out
“In granting the motion to dismiss, the judge said the law as described to grand jurors by McKinney was the “exact opposite” of what actually exists.” Star Press 4-21-10
Attorney: McKinney Misled Grand Jury
“Two days before his client is set to stand trial, the attorney for a local government critic on Tuesday fired back at Mark McKinney, accusing the beleaguered Delaware County prosecutor of “deliberately and intentionally misleading (a grand jury) about the law.” Star Press 4-21-10
Criminal Acts and Selective Prosecution
“Politically based selective prosecution is wrong.” Larry Riley Star Press 4-21-10
Election board has no credibility
” It’s obvious, especially after Thursday’s vote to dismiss the complaint, that the election board, which has a sacred public duty to ensure elections are free from fraud, is not capable of performing this function as it is now constituted.” Muncie Star Press Editorial 2-6-09
The Election Board Has Lost Its Way by John H. Brooke“The Delaware County Election Board under the leadership of Phil Nichols and Steve Craycraft has lost sight of its mission and purpose. The mission of any election board is to help conduct elections so that voters are confident the entire process is fair and honest. Delaware County’s Election Board has decided that its real purpose is to serve as a weapon to beat down political opponents under the guise of “protecting the election process.” Muncie Star Press Letter to Editor 2-8-09
Another Menace Nabbed
“What was his great crime against humanity? He placed a newspaper ad endorsing candidates for the 2008 election. The ad listed the CDCPTR as the source of the endorsements and featured the group’s logo, but did not — get this recklessly dangerous practice — “have a formal disclaimer.” The man had the gall to exercise his First Amendment Rights — throw the bum in jail. While the clown princes of the political world and the punditocracy mull whether nude dancing should be “protected free speech,” this is the kind of crap that goes on almost without protest.” The News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Indiana 4-21-09
We asked for serious cuts to the 2008 Budgets in the Fall of 2007 in preparation for the inevitable…..nobody was listening.
We proposed voluntary consolidations in October 2007…..nobody was listening.
We pointed to the multiple TIF Districts, with bulging excessive balances and debt that could be retired saving millions and even abolished returning more millions to the various contributing taxing districts…..and nobody was listening.
We started exposing the illegal Common Construction Wage practices in Delaware County that have been costing the County and Cities millions….and nobody is listening.
We Petitioned for Modernization/Consolidation in January/February 2008…..and some reluctantly listened while trying to figure out how to render the effort worthless.
We predicted a revenue shortfall of nearly $3 million dollars for 2009 and $4.5 million for 2010 as far back as early last summer…nobody was listening.
We again proposed wide sweeping budget and department cuts to the 2009 Budgets in the Fall of 2008….nobody was listening.
We worked up a comprehensive plan to to cut $3 million from the 2009 Budget….nobody was listening.
We held forums, informational meetings, published newsletters, worked the polls and even tried to point the voters in the right direction….but again, nobody was listening.
We’ve even gone so far as to voluntarily assume some of the very basic governmental responsibilities to demontrate it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or multi-million dollar budgets to perform the most basic and important services…..but apparently nobody is listening!
Hmmmmm….reminds me of the old adages….”you can lead a horse to water…..” or “you reap what you sow”……very, very unfortunate that we have public leadership so bent on sustaining the status quo that they would place the future of our Communities at risk and “lead” us to the poison well of economic collapse.