Tax appeals

Dear editor,

In reference to the ongoing tax appeals of various Warren County non-profits, we are writing to commend Commissioner John Bortz for taking a courageous stand on behalf of these valuable, vital institutions. We also write to express our extreme disappointment in Commissioners Vanco and Eggleston for refusing to even second Commissioner Borst’s motion so that it could be legitimately debated at a public meeting.

We think it’s very important that the residents of this County know that this issue has never been voted on at a public meeting. Not once. When news of the tax exempt revocations first broke, the Commissioners couldn’t run for cover fast enough behind the Board of Assessment Appeals. “It’s not us, it’s them, they’re independent of us.” When it then became apparent that that was a problem which might cause the courts to find the whole process defective, they backed off and said they had made some kind of informal request. Since when does County government operate by informal request?

We find it inconceivable that an item of this importance was never put to a vote at a public meeting. And, since that has never occurred, how do the Commissioners justify spending perhaps hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to pay a Pittsburgh attorney to pursue litigation that they have never formally authorized? Perhaps someone from the State Ethics Commission should be looking at that one.

And what about the Rouse Estate? The Commissioners comprise three-fifths of that entity’s Board and yet they are funding a lawsuit against the very institution they are, by law, obligated to protect. Isn’t this an obvious conflict of interest? Could it be any clearer that they are breaching their legal duties to that institution? Perhaps someone from the Attorney General’s office should be looking at that.

The lack of transparency in this process is frightening. Absolutely no written record exists of any step in this process prior to the filing of the appeals. No minutes, no findings, no e-mails, no evidence presented on behalf of the County, nothing. We have no idea how this was debated internally or by whom. And yet Commissioners Vanco and Eggleston seem content to permit an unelected Board to take an action which not only endangers the future viability of these critical institutions, but also risks the loss of scores of jobs at a time when we can least afford it. Every union member in this County should sit up and take notice. The damage to our community will be irreparable.

It is particularly galling to hear Commissioner Vanco say that he thinks this matter should be decided by the courts and not the legislature when he is, in effect, a legislator of sorts. Legislators lead, Mr. Vanco, they don’t punt important decisions to the nearest court. The lack of leadership throughout this process has been stunning.

We can only hope that Commissioner Bortz will ultimately prevail upon his colleagues to reverse this very ill considered “non-decision”. If he can’t, then the citizens of this County should “lead” with their votes at the next municipal election.

Signed,

Warren General Hospital Professional Employees Association President Jody Mashensic RN, CEN; Vice President Shelly Rodgers MT(HEW); Secretary Hope Punksy, MT(ASCP); Treasurer – Brenda Nuhfer RN.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees President Cathy Frasier; Vice President Deb Whitton; Treasurer Darlene Ananea, Secretary Mary Posker..