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No Tax should have the power to leave you homeless
Motion To Recuse Filed
On June 27, 2014, I filed a Motion To Recuse / Disqualify and an Amendment to my Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas. The Motion To Recuse seeks to have the Honorable Judge John D. Kuhn to remove himself from the case. The reason I filed this Motion is because of the Judge's close personal relationship with one of the Defendants, Commissioner Randy Phiel. Being first-cousin to Commissioner Phiel is not a disqualifier according to Pennsylvania Law, however if there is any personal bias and/or prejudice in which the Judge's impartiality may be reasonably questioned, he should disqualify himself.
In an appeal to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records for communications between the Judge and Commissioner Phiel, the Adams County Office of Open Records described the relationship between the two as quote, "Certain emails from Commissioner Randy Phiel to Judge John Kuhn include communications of a personal nature including scheduling of lunches, inquiring of the well‐being of family members, and other general interactions that were not official in nature and related instead to their close long‐standing close relationship". Either this description of the relationship is accurate, or someone in the Adams County Office of Open Records falsified information to restrict access to certain records.
Additionally, through another Right To Know request, I found an email that was initiated by the Judge to Solicitor John Hartzell, which discusses my case. At first glance the email seems rather innocuous, but consider (1) there should be no communication between the the parties of a proceeding without the knowledge and consent of all the parties, (2) the Judge dispelled legal advice to Solicitor Hartzell in the email by telling him that there was nothing compelling the County to respond, and (3) the email suggested that there had been other communications between the two regarding my case, without my knowledge and/or consent. This can be interpreted as ex parte communications and be a disqualifier. The ex parte communications, coupled with the close personal relationship with one of the Defendants, creates an undeniable perception of bias and/or impartiality in which the Judge should disqualify himself and be replaced with a Judge whom is absent any bias.
I also filed an Amendment to my Complaint with the same filing. The Amendment challenges some of the decisions the Court handed down in the Court Orders of May 2, 2014. I argue that due to the Judge being a trespasser of the law (regarding the ex parte communications) and loses subject matter jurisdiction, those Court orders are 'void'.
It is clear the Court only considered the 'four corners' of the Complaint and did not consider all of my filings, which all contained valuable facts and exhibits. My lack of experience in the legal arena and failure to adhere to all the rules of the Court, resulted in the Court not considering a large amount of established fact. I have asked the Court to reconsider, as I am a pro se litigant and not to be held to the same high standards as those of an attorney. I ask the Court to render substantial justice and hear this case according to due process.
All of these documents attached are now public documents available at the Courthouse for a fee.
The media had been alerted to this filing as of July 1, 2014 but has yet to report on it. I choose not to speculate on the reason for this newsworthy event to go unreported by the media.
The House Of Representatives is pondering taking legal action against President Obama for overstepping his his executive powers by ignoring and/or attempting to change the law. In many ways, this parallels what I have done locally in Adams County. By filing a mandamus complaint in the Court Of Common Pleas, I have asked the Court to force the County Commissioners to follow the law, and/or make those who report to them, follow the law. The County Commissioners responded by attempting the change/circumvent the law by passing a NEW Adams County Clean & Green Policy...essentially changing the law and making their unlawful actions, lawful; power which has NOT been vested unto them! So far the Court has responded by scrutinizing my method of filing and lack of professional experience in the legal arena. I am subsequently asking the Court to ignore my inadvertent failure to crossing my t's and dotting my i's and hear this case on its merits. Time will tell how they proceed.
Pennsylvania is among the most corrupt
Congratulations Pennsylvania! We knew we were good at something! But why stop at fifth? Let's go for Number 1!
It Ain't Over Yet
Yeah, I've been dealt a set-back, but it ain't over yet. I filed for a continuance today, asking for an additional 30 days. I have a huge task ahead to complete all I need to do, but I'm committed. All I can say (for now) is to stay tuned, it should prove interesting. To be fair, I've included Judge Kuhn's ruling below if anyone wishes to look it over. Basically, my inexperience in the legal arena doomed me. I've tried very hard to learn and adapt to the rules of civil procedure, but for the average person, they are pretty daunting. To learn the rules of Court AND tell this extraordinary story was quite a challenge. It costs $27.50 for every filing in the Prothonotary's office. The County is getting rich off of me ;-)
A Damn Shame
This story is just too sad. A woman in Pa. lost her home over a $6.30 tax bill. The Judge noted that a notice was sent to her First Class mail and was never returned. I worked in a direct-mail facility and it was common to see mail trays return with unmailed pieces still in them. First-Class mail does NOT always go through. What a shame...
Reaching Out To My Readers - Flood Insurance
I am reaching out to my readers, particularly those in Carroll Valley, or other flood-prone areas of the county. I was contacted by another reader because she lives in a flood-prone area of Carroll Valley. Her concerns are with a recent law change that have caused flood insurance premiums to skyrocket to the tune of $10,000/year for some folks. These premium increases have allegedly forced some homeowners to fall into Foreclosure and lose their homes.
I was unaware of any law changes that had this negative impact on local homeowners. I have already reached out to our local state representatives to see if there is anything on the Legislative Agenda that could offer some relief to these folks.
In the meantime, I request that if any local homeowners have experienced these ridiculous increases in flood insurance premiums to contact me at moose[at]spreadthemustard.com (please replace the [at] with @ to cut down on spam in my mailbox). If there are enough affected folks that reach out with their horror stories, perhaps we can get some action.
As Predicted...Stan Clark is the NEW Veterans Administration Officer/Director
It has been reported (unofficially, for now) that Stan Clark (Commissioner Randy Phiel's BFF), has been appointed to the recently vacated Veterans' Administration Director position. This fulfills Commissioner Phiel's indebtedness to Mr. Clark for serving as his Campaign Manager. This also allows Mr. Clark to join his bride in the Courthouse, who works in the Human Resources Department.
This is becoming way too easy to predict the Commissioners' next course of action. Next thing you know...they'll be creating a new office next to Randy's for Mr. Clark to occupy.
Welcome Tom Weaver
Welcome to Former Adams County Commissioner Tom Weaver! Mr. Weaver submitted a Letter To The Editor in the Gettysburg Times today voicing his displeasure with the current County Commissioners. I'm certainly speculating....but judging by the content of his letter, I'd bet that he is a loyal reader of mine! Good to have you, Mr. Weaver!
Veterans Affairs Office not shutting down, but it may as well...Plus, a PREDICTION!
The Gettysburg Times ran an article today that says that the County's Veterans Affairs Office is NOT closing down. Both accredited employees who served the veterans for years will both be gone by the end of the week.
It's an interesting article and clearly spun to make the county leaders
look good. My source tells me that it's not quite accurate. From a purely
technical perspective, Mr. Farrell may have 'technically' retired.
However, usually a retiree walks out with his/her head held high after
many years of loyal service. Mr. Farrell, unfortunately, was escorted from
the Courthouse on Friday while Security waited idly by while he packed his
personal belongings. Sources say he will be paid for his last week
and his leaving in this fashion will NOT be held against him in any way.
In the interim, Ms. DeGroft presumably will be available to handle the
Veterans needs, although as I understand the situation, she is part-time
and her last day will be Friday the 14th. Until they hire someone capable
enough to handle the affairs of the veterans, they will be handled by the
Human Resources Department, who knows nothing of Veteran Affairs and/or
those who couldn't view the video posted in the 03-07-14 post...follow
this link to the video to see how Veterans SHOULD be treated!
Are You A Veteran in Adams County? .....So What!
The Gettysburg Times reported Thursday February 27, 2014 that the County was consolidating the Veterans Affairs Department by moving it to the Human Resources Department. Want to know the whole story? ...read on...
The County employed two full-time employees, both charged to take care of Veterans concerns when they visited the Courthouse seeking help. The two employees were John Farrell, Veterans Affairs Director; and Tammy DeGroft, Veterans Service Officer. Ms. DeGroft was actually splitting between the Veterans Affairs Office (3 days/week) and Purchasing (2 days/week). In Mr. Farrell's absence for meetings and/or appointments, Ms. DeGroft would fill in and meet with local veterans. Both employees were accredited Service Officers and served the veterans very well.
In January, Ms. DeGroft was informed that she was no longer going to be full-time and would lose her benefits. This would have been a problem serving the Veterans when Mr. Farrell would be unavailable. The Commissioners' solution was to move them to the Human Resources Department, so when there was no one available to see the Veterans, they would at least see a "face" and the Human Resources Dept. employee would be able to take a message and get back to the Veteran(s). The Human Resources Department employees have no idea what the Veterans Affairs Officers do and would not be of much help, should anyone stop in.
Neither Mr. Farrell, nor Ms. DeGroft were happy with the way the events were unfolding. They felt that the Veterans were NOT being represented well and deserved better. In light of the diminishing attention the Veterans Affairs Department was able to bestow upon those so deserving of their service, both Mr. Farrell and Ms. DeGroft served the Commissioners with their resignations effective March 14, 2014. Hooray for them! Kudos to them for standing up for what they believe!
Apparently it was no secret that Adams County's Veterans are held in such low regard. The Adams County Manager, Albert Penksa, was allegedly quoted as saying, "the Veterans are a LOW PRIORITY." Commissioner Randy Phiel reiterated his distaste for veterans by allegedly adding, "I'm not worried because I have Veterans I go to the VFW with and I am not hearing any complaints from any of the veterans, so obviously it's not a problem". So, if he can drink beer with them, it dulls their senses and makes everything alright...?
So now, the County has not a soul to meet and service any veterans needs. They must now travel to York and/or Franklin County to have their needs met. I am unaware of any of the Commissioners ever having served in any branch of military. They wouldn't KNOW what it's like to sacrifice their time and/or well-being ensuring that we may live free, although they surely have benefited from the service of others. I must add that Commissioner Phiel has served as a Park Ranger, and he continues living on the public dole as Commissioner.
To me, it's a shame and slap in the face to every veteran in the county to be viewed as an after-thought as the Commissioners view them. The veterans in Adams County would be treated far better if they were cows, as we fall over ourselves making sure our cows are taken care of. Now, if those veterans would happen to be real property owners of 10 acres or more, then please step into my (Assessment) office, son, let's see what we can do for you! Maybe I will title my first book, "The Cows of Adams County".
That's the whole truth, as it has been presented to me. You can read about the plans for the consolidation of the veterans Affairs Department here, and then scroll down to see the release of Mr. Farrell and Ms. DeGroft, one week later in another edition of the Times.
Instead of treating our veterans as an afterthought, they SHOULD treat them like this:
Albert Penksa - Update
Greetings folks! It's been awhile since I posted. I submitted (hopefully) my last filing before the Honorable Judge rules on my case. It's been over a year and there's nothing to report from the bench. I'm holding onto some juicy stuff until the right time. If nothing happens within my self imposed timeline, I'll consider releasing the information to jumpstart the process.
The reason for this post is I had an anonymous reader send me an update on our County Manager. There's really no need to remain anonymous, because I would NEVER divulge a source, especially one that delivers factual, sound and verifiable information. Regardless, they protected their identity and I respect that; I just hope they keep it coming...and maybe attend my next picnic.
It seems Mr. Albert Penksa, Adams County Manager, recently applied for a job in Escambia County, Florida. I can't blame him for wanting to almost double his salary and relocating to the Sunshine State. My anonymous tipster ran across his application online, so this is in the public domain and not protected in any way. I found his application, resume and answers to the supplemental questions interesting. I also wonder why he left out this important information in his background? He also doesn't wish for his potential employers to contact either his current employers OR his former Cambria County employers. I wonder why that would be?
I just hope that I don't hurt his chances of gaining employment in Florida, because I for one would be glad to see him go. I had one personal encounter with him and he came off as a complete jackass. There's three county employees that I detest, and he's one of them. Guess the other two :-)
My tipster tells me that a friend of his works near Mr. Penksa and describes him as a real creep that needs to be exposed. I'm not sure just how close his friend works to Mr. Penksa, but my guess would be.....drumroll please....the Courthouse?
Now, just because my one experience with Mr. Penksa, and one other unnamed person allegedly considers him a jackass and a creep respectively, does not necessarily mean he is either of those derogatory terms. And, I'm sure Mr. Penksa had very good reason for not filing his Controller reports on time in Cambria County and for filing an action for declaratory judgment, challenging the Cambria County Commissioners' authority there. Let's not be too hasty in judging his desire to relocate to a more climate friendly county, but should he win the favor of those Escambia County executives, he should have plenty of help packing his bags here in Adams. Let's just hope that the Escambia County Officials don't Google Albert Penksa's name.
DAMN! Minutes after posting this, I found a list of the Finalists, and Albert did NOT make the cut! So, regrettably I had no hand in his failure to secure his next employment and making Adams' County's future brighter! Curiously, the webpage announcing the Finalists says "Access denied" You are not authorized to view this page. Well, maybe they shouldn't post this stuff in the public domain if they don't want amateur sleuths accessing it! Maybe Al can get a job as their IT Director and teach them how to secure this information! Geesh!
UPDATE 2/27/14 - Apparently the list of finalists for the Escambia County Administrator that I supplied previously is NOT accurate. Adams County Manager, Albert Penksa, is INDEED one of the Finalists for the Florida position, according to this website and it is rumored that he has scheduled vacation to be in Florida for the interview process. Cross your fingers that he gets the position so Adams County can be rid of him. Here is a quick look at the Finalists covers letters and qualifications. Go AL!!!
Still Waiting...BTW, Here's the New County C&G Policy
Here's a special shout-out to a loyal reader, Brook's Grandmother, who thinks I'm "The Man!" I think you're pretty special too, Grandma. :-)
Just biding time until the Honorable Court wades through the evidence. Certainly, I'm biased, but I don't know what the hold-up could be. In a civil case, all that is required is a preponderance of the evidence and I surely feel that I've met that criteria.
I think that the County felt that by instituting a "new" Clean & Green Policy, that would calm any concerns about the inequities I've pointed out. They publicly unveiled the new policy and in essence declared, "There, we fixed it!". However, they never really unveiled the Policy. You HAVE to REQUEST it via a Right To Know Request to find out what's REALLY in it, kind of like ObamaCare. Remember the phrase, "you have to pass it to see what's in it".
Consider that they've known about the multitude of inequities through my submissions, then they go behind closed doors for an ENTIRE YEAR and deliberate modifications to the Clean & Green Program out-of-sight of the public. These deliberations were supposed to open to the public per the Sunshine Act. Why would they conduct these proceedings out of the public eye? Why do you think? All it takes is for a knowledgeable person to read and interpret the new policy to see that they've added language that basically says "they love the big landowners more than the little landowners", and by God "we're going to take care of the large landowners!"
Rather than apply a strict construction of the law as they are mandated to do, they added language that will discount much more acreage then if the statutory/common law had been strictly followed. This pushes more tax burden unto others and keeps those lands from being assessed/categorized properly and it restricts the public access to those who subsidize the land. This is undeniably a knowing and willful act to alter the intent of the law!
For any public officials, nominated or elected, to knowingly and deliberately oppress certain groups of people through taxation means, is deplorable and against the law, and they should be brought to justice!
Additionally, the County added specific language to the Policy that would save the civil war reenactment sites from being subjected to roll-back taxes. Why would they do that? Would it be because one of the Commissioners has a special interest in these lands? If these lands were subject to roll-backs, that extra tax burden might force those reenactments somewhere else OR cause this Commissioner to absorb these costs, cutting into his proceeds. Sneaky little trick there, guys! Which goes to show you that this is no coincidence. They've knowingly and deliberately attempted to change the law to suit their needs and/or desires. Or, at least that's what I think happened :-) . They could always challenge my views in a court of law ;-D .
All the B.S. they've employed to date just steels my resolve and I vow to never give up until this is settled and those responsible pay for their misdeeds.
DISCLAIMER: Naturally, all things on this website reflect the author's views, unless noted otherwise. I reserve my right to free speech and in certain cases granted others a vehicle to express their own views. I urge my readers to consider all available evidence and draw their own knowledgeable conclusions to any/all of the herein stated allegations. All persons involved in litigation concerning these matters are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
County Could Be Out Millions
An Alabama County could be out $400, or millions! That is what this website reports. If spreadthemustard.com is a blog about Adams County, Pa., how does this pertain to us, you ask? Let me explain:
Although there is only a misdemeanor charge against the former Marshall County Revenue Commissioner for allegedly taking $400, there are much more serious matters being litigated in the civil court. The civil charges allege that this former Commissioner "fixed" the assessments of friends, family and/or colleagues so that they would have a much reduced tax burden. This parallels allegations in Adams County Common Pleas Court, that allege that certain employees of the Adams County Tax Services Office gave unfair and unlawful preferential discounts to a certain group of people, without holding those parcel owners to a "strict construction of the law" as mandated. As a result, the tax base in Adams County is unfairly lowered, causing the county to lose much needed revenue.
Tireless efforts were made trying to get the Adams County Commissioners to look into the matter and eventually resulted in the author of this site to file civil charges, with the hopes of spurring criminal charges concurrently, or at a later date. It seems that instead of the Commissioners seeking to recoup this lost revenue from these under-assessed property owners, they would rather raise the millage rate, increasing the tax burden disproportionately on those already taxed unfairly.
Commissioners Pat Each Other On The Back
The Adams County Commissioners concluded Wednesday's regular Commissioner's meeting by noting how surprised they were to receive the Sapp Award (below) from the Adams County Economic Development Committee for their contributions for advancing the economic climate in the county. Commissioner Phiel proclaimed, "Hell, it's been two years and we haven't even done anything yet, but it sure was nice to receive this award". He went on to add that if Straban Township would get their heads out of their asses, we could get a Super Walmart and a bunch of supporting top line companies to join them.
Commissioner Jim Martin said, "Whatever Randy says, double that for me".
Commissioner Marty (I don't keep a loaf of bread in my restaurant) Qually said, "If we could get some more businesses to relocate here, it could help boost the catering businesses".
Two local contractors submitted bids to perform work needed to repair the Adams County Courthouse clock tower. Coldsmith Roofing Inc. and Donald B. Smith Inc. were the only bidders for the project that county officials hope will not require prevailing wage rates, which often increase the price of construction projects.
Public entities are required to pay prevailing wages for projects costing more than $25,000 according to the 1961 Prevailing Wage Act. But there are conditions that exempt entities from that requirement, Adams County Solicitor John Hartzell said. While Hartzell cited case law analysis that left room for interpretation of the state law, Hartzell said the county would likely be able to avoid paying prevailing wage rates.
We always try to err on the side of the law, he said, by applying a strict construction of the laws of the Commonwealth. It was at this moment that Adams County Manager Al Penksa, turned his head and tried to avoid drenching Hartzell with a mouthful of water that he had just ingested. Penksa, visibly distraught, apologized and explained it must've gone down the wrong hole.
"When you look at case law, you try to infer by analogy how courts would look at it," Hartzell said. "It gets a bit fuzzy, but I believe that the county's position is strong that this would not require the Prevailing Wage Act." Penska at this point buckled over and grabbing his side, excused himself.
Commissioner Marty Qually said he hopes his fellow Commissioners vote on this soon, adding that it gets scary up there on the clock tower during storms. Commissioner Qually, being the only Democrat on the Board of Commissioners, has been tasked with keeping the clock tower dry by stationing himself atop the clock tower during inclement weather with an umbrella, to keep the internal workings dry.
Adams County Commissioner Chair Randy Phiel said while he is a proponent of fiscal responsibility and fairness, it's just not right that Commissioner Qually, a minority party member, has to stay up on the roof during storms, protecting the clock tower. But, Phiel added, Qually never stopped loving Adams County!
Commissioner Jim Martin had nothing to add, but looked on approvingly while holding onto Commissioner Phiel's coattails.
Commissioners Receive Sapp Award
Adams County Commissioners receive the Sapp Award. <Insert your own story here>
Time flys! On the 15th of this month it will be the first anniversary of filing my civil complaint against the county. So far I haven't heard a thing from the court. I consider this a good thing because if the court were going to throw the suit out, I'm sure they would have done so by now. That means it must have some substance to it. Since I asked the court to make a decision (Peremptory Judgment), I would assume they are taking this very seriously. And, since this is a very sophisticated, complex, extensive and obscure scheme of assessment, I'm fairly confident that the sitting Judge hasn't heard a case like this before. This could take some time for the sitting Judge to brush up on the complexities of these preferential assessment laws. Factor in any potential and alleged criminal offenses, it could get quite messy. The Court needs to take its time to sort through the voluminous evidence and laws to be able to rule accordingly. The longer it takes, the more confident I am.
The Commissioners have proposed an new Ordinance to delay any reassessments until the COD has reached 20% or more for two consecutive years, at which time they will convene a task force to study the possibility of a reassessment. That means the county residents who are (or will be) unlawfully bearing a disproportionate amount of the tax burden (due to faulty assessments) will be subject to these disparities for at least three years before relief could possibly be granted through a reassessment. No telling how many years the COD could languish between the Pennsylvania Case Law "bright line" standard of 15% COD and the County's 20% proposed threshold. Read the draft of the Ordinance here.
Dave Sprankle, former employee of the MIS Department, submitted an interesting piece to the Hanover Evening Sun. You can read that here.
Keeping with my objective of providing serious and compelling content while keeping things light-hearted, I offer you this picture taken of one of the Commissioners reporting to work Election Day morning.
Sheriff's Office Receives Accreditation
I don't have much to say about this other than when I saw this picture, I felt there was something missing. Click on the picture to see what was missing...
Bring It On
I've been saving my vacation through 2013 for a potential Court appearance, but it appears I may have to use it up before the end of the year. I do get to roll a week over to 2014 as my boss understands the importance of this suit. So, if Mr. Hartzell really wants to go to Court and risk the possible implications of this suit...well, ok, I'll oblige him. It only takes a preponderance of the evidence to win the suit, but I'm confident I can supply MUCH more than that. After all, if the defendants are found guilty of bilking 40,000 property owners out of more than their lawful fair share of levied taxes, they deserve some type of substantial punishment. Bring it on!
I received this wonderful letter in the mail today. It is a reminder for me to keep the course. I know I'm right and I shall fight to the end, even if the end may be in the next highest court, as the Court of Common Pleas may not deliver the justice I seek. I know there are many more folks, just like the author of this letter out there, and I pledge to do my very best to seek justice for those harmed by the deeds of our public officials. Let me take the time to thank the author of this letter for her kind words - THANK YOU!
Nope...not gonna do it...
In the old days, I would've taken a story like this and put a local spin on it, injecting some satire/sarcasm involving our elected and/or nominated officials. But this time, I'm not gonna do it. I'll let you do it!
Went To The Courthouse Today...
... with a friend to assist her with checking out CAMA (the assessment database) and a surprising coincidence occurred. Literally the minute I walked through the door (2:24pm), CAMA mysteriously stopped working. They must have some type of facial recognition program that knew I was in the building and shut it down. We were told it would only be down a few minutes, but at 4:30 (when the Courthouse closes) it was still down. Apparently they were upgrading their virus protection program and needed everybody logged off. While waiting, I tried it and found it to be working, but within a few minutes an employee politely asked that I log off. My friend suggested that maybe I was the virus.
Meanwhile, after filing for a peremptory judgment for the pending litigation I filed, the County responded. They are still praying to have my litigation thrown out due to technicalities, while they have again failed to mount any type of defense. I call this strategy their "Hail Mary" defense.
For your reading pleasure, I offer my latest filings...all of which are public documents available (for a fee) at the Adams County Courthouse. Since the County insists that my initial filing, where I requested that they follow the law, wasn't compelling enough...I asked for some financial relief as well. After all, when you break the law...there is a penalty that must be levied. Suppose someone broke a law...or several laws, that harmed more than 40,000 people? What should the penalty be for that?
Just had some good 'ole honest-to-goodness Adams County sweet corn! Man, I love sweet corn! It's better when its local and just came out of the field, too. Love them farmers! And, this cat can tell a real farm when he sees it! Real farmers bring their goods to market so the rest of us can enjoy. Mmmm...Mmmm!
Just a Quick Update...
The ball is in the County's hands, or more accurately John Hartzell's hands. I'm sure I didn't file something quite right and he is taking advantage of the time, going beyond the allotted 20 days to respond. That's alright with me, I'm enjoying the summer sun instead of being cooped up behind a computer screen. I could push things along if I chose to do so, but I gotta tell you, I'm curious as to how the County Solicitor is going to answer the multitude of allegations. He could try some legal razzle dazzle to explain his position but he needs to razzle dazzle someone other than the Plaintiff. He needs to razzle dazzle the Court as well, and that won't be quite as easy. The county needs to show that what they've been doing is according to the written law, interpreted law and the intent of the law. The law is the law, made and implemented by the Pennsylvania Legislature. The Clean & Green statutes have been interpreted by various court cases throughout the Commonwealth over the years. It's pretty straightforward as to how it's been interpreted and the County does not have the authority to interpret the law as they see fit, twist it to suit their needs & desires, or fit the secret agenda of its nominated employees (Hello...Commissioners...have you figured it out yet? hint, hint).
Most counties/taxing authorities vigorously defend their their tax base and the law actually requires they take a strict construction of the law regarding taxation. Not so in Adams County. This case is likely to be a first! Never has an agency spent so much time, energy and money to go to court to keep from realizing such a significant increase in tax base (read tax revenue) that is there for the taking. Apparently they don't need that revenue...or more precisely...they'll just get it from those with less than ten acres. I once referred to the stance the Adams County Tax Assessment Office took, regarding the way they implemented the Clean & Green Program as "loosey goosey". "Loosey Goosey" is a far cry from a "strict construction of the law"!
The Commissioners could fix all of this if they chose to do so. Perhaps they'll string it out long enough to be fresh in the minds of their electorate by the time the next election rolls around.
Mr. Hartzell also has to convince his Assistant Solicitor who has signed onto this deal as well. The Assistant Solicitor is obliged to defend the county, but he too must know what a sham this is. I can see those two bickering now about what the law says and what the law means and how can we spin this make it look like we're right. The county seems determined to preserve the precious land in the county on the backs of those with less than ten acres. Those who reap the benefits should have no desire to sell off their land, when someone else is paying the taxes on it, AND they get to keep those pesky commoners off their land by keeping it "no public access" allowed, contrary to the intent of those who made the law. It would be even more interesting if the Assistant Solicitor had an elderly mother and/or father on fixed incomes, with less than ten acres in Adams County, struggling to pay their property taxes.
If the quote at the top of this page is any indication, there are those who believe that they may interpret law (perhaps as they see fit) and ignore any law they don't seem to care for. How would that defense work for you in a court of law? "Yes, your Honor, I saw the red light...but I didn't think I had to stop for it! I thought it was meant for that other class of people!" No folks, laws are meant for all of us, not just some of us.
A Funny Thing Happened...
...tonight. I received a phone call from a prominent and informed Adams County farmer. He stated his support for my efforts and understands that my efforts will not harm Adams County farmers in the least. I explained how these fake farmers artificially lower the county revenue stream which makes the improvements on a real farmer's land realize a heavier tax burden. He understands that, and inquired whether I ever investigated the Gettysburg Reenactment taking place on Clean & Green land. I replied that I had investigated to a degree this subject and found the deed to one of the reenactment sites actually allows such activities. That does not mean a reenactment qualifies as an agri-business because Clean & Green is a total different animal. Clean & Green is a State (Commonwealth) Program governed by state law. The County MAY NOT circumvent state law UNLESS THEY ARE GRANTED EXPRESS CONSENT to do so. So if this new farmer friend of mine finds that the county has granted permission to allow a reenactment group (spearheaded by Commissioner Phiel) to perform a for-profit non-agricultural business on Clean & Green enrolled land, then there may be an issue here. One, it would be a severe conflict of interest for a sitting Commissioner to grant himself permission to operate such a venture on preferentially assessed land. Two, a for-profit non-agricultural business could violate the Clean & Green statutes and cause this land to be not eligible for tax abatements. This could be very interesting...
Collect That Pillow Tax...Or Else!
Adams County Solicitor John Hartzell wants to remind you that if you rent a room during the 150th, you better collect and turn in the respective taxes (pillow & sales) associated with the transaction. Failure to do so could subject yourself to criminal penalties. He's apparently worried about pennies, when on the other hand, we have an estimated hundred million dollars or more of under-assessed land in the county which he turns a blind eye to. What a joke! Apparently collecting the taxes due on that precious land would be detrimental to his secret agenda. Besides, the County will get the operating revenue it needs, it just won't be from those who enjoy the large tracts of land.
Adams Courthouse Searched After Bomb Threat
A Bomb threat phoned into the Adams County Courthouse yesterday morning prompted security measures and a period of restricted access to the building but no evacuation, officials said.
The call was received at about 8:50 am, said Adams County Solicitor John Hartzell, who also serves as Public Information Officer for County Emergency Management Services.
At that point the building and parking lot was secured and no one was allowed to enter the building, Hartzell said.
The County has a standard protocol that was initiated, Hartzell said, adding that details of safety and security procedures are not publicized.
A search was conducted and after it was determined there was no threat, at 9:55 am restrictions to the building were removed, Hartzell said.
An apparent disgruntled employee who was required to work through the incident spoke to sources on the condition of anonymity.
She described the security measures above, that are not publicized. Those measures reportedly involve Commissioner Randy Phiel huddling with County Solicitor John Hartzell, County Manager Albert Penksa, and Emergency Services Chief John Eline at the Adams County Agricultural Building while Commissioners Jim Martin and Marty Karsteader-Qually conduct a search of the Courthouse.
Commissioner Martin starts at the west side of the building on the fourth floor while Commissioner Karsteader-Qually and his dog Fluffy start searching the building from the east side of the building on the basement floor. If they reach the middle of the building safely with no signs of the reported bomb, Commissioner Karsteader-Qually gives the "all clear" by signaling the secret code. The secret code phrase is reported to be, "I never stopped loving Adams County".
It is at that point that Commissioner Phiel, Hartzell, Al Penska and John Eline re-join the staff at the Courthouse. If Penksa is required to drive to the Agricultural Building, he will then submit a request for mileage reimbursement.
Official Court Documents
Below are official court documents I filed on behalf of my mandamus complaint. These are not complete as I have not included the Notice To Defend, Verification, or Certificate of Service. The documents I do list here, will give the reader the general idea behind my complaint. Also not included here are the 31 plus exhibits that support my allegations within these documents. All of the documents filed in this case may be obtained at the Adams County Courthouse under case number 2012-S-1625. My initial request for Relief was compensatory damages as the Court deemed just, and punitive damages payable ONLY in the event the County continued violating the law regarding the administration of the Clean & Green Program. The County insists that asking that county officials obey the law is not a compelling enough reason for a mandamus complaint. So, in an attempt to make it compelling enough, I added some punitive damages for past violations to soothe the county's concern. The County is in the process of answering these filings and it will be interesting to hear what they have to say.
What's Up With Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania is among the leaders of corruption in government, particularly from 2000-2009. More recently, there was the Kids for Cash scandal and the Turnpike scandal; now there's the Harrisburg fraud allegations and the seemingly always corrupt Luzerne County officials. There's so much blatant corruption in Pennsylvania that the Legislature has vowed to Clean up Government. Now that Pennsylvania is amongst the leaders in gambling revenue, don't hold your breath with all that money floating around. Not to be forgotten is the alleged comprehensive and extensive tax shifting from one group of people to another group of people in Adams County that allows farms with no agricultural commodity, forests with no trees, and public accessible lands that the local county government allows the large property owners to restrict that lawful public access with hefty fences. The large wealthy landowners have their tax burden picked up largely by those with less than ten acres and those unlucky tax recipients get nothing in exchange for subsidizing said land. All of this is supervised and condoned by your new Adams County Commissioners Jim (Judas) Martin, Randy (Pompous PuppetMaster) Phiel and Marty (Gummy-Bear must have the last word) Karsteader-Qually. I propose a Proclamation to Clean Up Adams County and oust the PuppetMaster and his two puppets as soon as possible.
"Who's going to Jail?", That's what House Speaker John Boehner wants to know! Of course, he's talking about the recent IRS scandal, not the alleged scandalous activities going on in Adams County. You know something...he's right! When your public officials stray outside the law, whether it's preventing those from obtaining tax exempt status (who could be deemed eligible), or authoring an extensive scheme that grants preferential tax abatements to those not deemed eligible...someone should go to jail, damnit! It's time those who think they are above the law find out differently. Someone needs to pay and as Boehner and Obama target those in the IRS, yours truly will target the local yahoos. It should prove fun to watch the local yahoos try to fend off the stark reality of the facts, in a court of law. It's up to one local Officer of the Court to explain how one agency could twist and obscure the intent and meaning of the law into something totally different than what has been interpreted in the rest of the Commonwealth, and into something that just so happens, furthers an agenda which is very dear to his own special interests. Hang onto your seat, this could be a wild ride.
Barb Walters Is Retiring!
Yippie! Barb is Retiring!!! Sorry...not THAT Barb Walter *sigh*.
The County keeps insisting that my mandamus complaint needs some type of relief to be justified. They argue that filing a mandamus simply to make public officials follow the law is not compelling enough. So, I made it compelling by asking for punitive damages. Those punitive damages could be contingent upon certain conditions. I offered to consider reducing those damages requested, IF Barb Walter and John Hartzell hand in their resignations, or if they are dismissed. If they don't resign or aren't dismissed, I am content with going to court and having all of my evidence made public record. I'm confident that the evidence I will present, will not paint them favorably. It shall be up to the county to decide how far they want to go and how much information they want divulged. I'm in it for the long haul. It should prove to be interesting going forward.
Note to Mr. Hartzell: It was nice seeing you at the Adams County Ag-Land Preservation Board Meeting! Sorry I missed the strawberries, maybe next time.
Clean & Green...Like Only Adams County Can Do It!
You're gonna LOVE this one...so pretty, so clean & so GREEN, according to Adams County.
This is categorized as Forest-Reserve. I was in a hurry to get to work this morning so I can pay my taxes (and others' taxes, as well) so I rushed my post. I re-did the arithmetic tonight, although it didn't change much.
It would be one thing IF the math added up, but quite another when it doesn't. The magic disappearing money is the biggest concern here. Perhaps a nice gift for the Chief Assessor is in order.
Note: I never thought I'd say this...but I couldn't get this attachment to view the way I wanted it to with Adobe Reader. If you don't see my comments attached, you may want to download Nitro PDF Reader 3. It's free and it works.
Must See Video - Sustainable Development
Never heard of Sustainable Development? You're not alone. You really need to watch this video that was recorded at the local Adams 912 meeting. Please watch it, and when you're done watching it...THEN read this and tell me what you think. Don't cheat...video first, then the link. It's a lengthy video, so set aside some time...it's worth it and it's happening here.
Just wanted to give ya'll an update on the litigation I filed. I finally got a response from the county and of course, as a pro se litigant, having never filed anything before...I made some mistakes. Nothing much to worry about I don't think. Pro Se litigants can make errors, as case law says they don't have to held to the same high standards as an attorney. I've surely learned from it and am making corrections along the way.
Since I didn't file properly, the county wasn't obligated to respond in a timely manner. Time was on their side and they took advantage of it. Undoubtedly, they objected to my errors and want it dismissed. Also they are questioning my standing, as I expected.
I am answering all those objections and raised one big one myself. Of course I am asking the Honorable Court to hear the case on the merits, regardless of my procedural shortcomings. If they don't hear it, I'll have to take the next step. I'm not going away...I'm one stubborn sob.
Two Adams County Commissioners were treated and released at the Gettysburg Hospital today after being treated for minor injuries. Republican Commissioners Jim Martin and Randy Phiel complained of shoulder stiffness and carpel tunnel after weeks of patting each other on the back. Reflecting on their vast accomplishments over their first year, both sought treatment for their nagging injuries. Neither is expected to miss any time in the Courthouse. A few months back, Democratic Commissioner Martin Karsteader-Qually escaped serious injury when he dropped his new nameplate that resides on his desk, on his foot while changing it from Martin Qually, to Martin Karsteader-Qually.
In other news, the Adams County Land Conservancy attended the Commissioner's meeting Thursday as the Commissioners made a Proclamation that next month and every month after that, will officially be Land Conservancy month. After the passing of the Proclamation, Solicitor John Hartzell and the Adams County Rural Resource Manager, led the assembly by doing the Harlem Shake. As soon as the assembly finished the shake, the entire Land Conservancy group abruptly left the Courthouse chambers and the meeting continued.
On Second Thought...
The Property Tax Independence Act may not be all it's cracked up to be. I'm immersed into this Clean & Green stuff and find it hard to divert my attention to other things for now. I've turned to a friend of mine to analyze this proposed Property Tax Independence Act. While it is being touted as an answer to the high property tax bills we now endure, it's what you don't know, that might hurt you. My thoughts and those of a friend of mine, are interspersed below.
The Property Tax Independence Act is not much different than what is happening locally in Adams County. Locally, some in the Courthouse have devised a scheme that shifts the taxes from one group of taxpayers to another. This is done under the guise of land preservation, only it stretches the intent of the existing Clean & Green law. The way Adams County implements the Clean & Green Program, it is actually an unfair and unlawful shifting of taxes. It allows those who have the land, to hold onto said land at virtually no cost to them (while prohibiting the public access the Legislature granted), while everyone else picks that cost up. There is no need/desire to sell that land that doesn't cost them anything to hang onto. I intend to lay this all out in a Court of Law and hold those who dreamt this charade up, responsible. The Commissioners may plan to fix it, but I doubt even they know the extent of this sophisticated and extensive scheme. Meanwhile they keep fueling land preservation (aka the great tax money give-away) to those few fortunate families that receive the money. In some budget years, the County has ponied up more local money for land preservation, than they've spent on Children and Youth Services.
The Property Tax Independence Act is very similar to what's happening locally. While the Legislature scurries around trying to find a fix to this property tax dilemma, the Lobbyists have been very busy trying to twist it into a complicated mess that is hard to decipher what it really is. Take some time to analyze this bill yourself. While the following rant paints me as very pessimistic, I admit it would be nice to eliminate that pesky, in-your-face school tax bill every year! Being ideally located near the Maryland line, I have a choice of spending my money in Pennsylvania, or not. Not all have that option.
The bill shifts the burden of the school taxes mainly to the have nots, or have little. Sales taxes are regressive and unfair, especially when they include many basic necessities. When will our representatives tax Total Personal Income, rather than Earned Income? It's always the working man that gets screwed!
Folks who are renting and/or live in a trailer and not on their own land, are being royally raped. Folks living in modest houses will not be ahead either. Folks with multiple houses, rentals etc, will have it made in the shade. So will many businesses, including fake farmers with McMansions.. Their less wealthy customers/neighbors will now be picking up a major part of their school tax.
They already did that for their land via the Clean & Green scam, but now they are financing the school tax burden on the dwellings too. And now the victims do not even have to be property owners. What a cleverly engineered scheme. Why don't average folks see thru this major rip off of the common man?
Young working families with kids and that live paycheck to paycheck, who do not own their own home, will have to pay tax on practically all food items.
[Click on this link to see WIC food items]
They'll also have to pay taxes on baby supplies like disposable diapers. Hope they will not have a taxable funeral in the near future. No trips to the hairdressers anymore either.
Non prescription drugs (taken by those who cannot afford to go to the doctor) will now be taxed, while more affluent folk that can afford the prescription drugs, that do not get taxed.
There are plenty of other items that could have been taxed but businesses and the affluent have been carefully exempted. Most come out like one big winner. Lobbying has paid off again.
The tax on legal work only applies to the working man. Business has been excluded again.
It would have been nice to see a higher sales tax on luxury cars, plastic surgery for appearance only, etc etc. Mainly, I would have like to see the school tax replaced with a progressive State personal income tax structure. The only fair way. The more you make, the more you pay in percentage of your income. Not the less you make , the more you pay in percentage of your income.
They targeted and custom fitted the additional sales taxes for the less fortunate. It is even worse than the 15% carried interest tax in the Federal tax code.
But then what can you expect from a "bought by special interest" politician. Most politicians are owned by their Masters.
But look at it this way. When you go into a big store like Walmart (with their multi billionaire major share holders) your tax dollars already subsidized their underpaid workers thru food stamps/section 8 housing etc, thereby increasing their profits. But with this bill in addition, you also finance their school tax thru the many more taxed purchased items plus the sales tax even went up from 6% to 7%.
It appears to be just another scheme touted as progress, that shifts the burden of taxes to those who can least afford it. That broadens the gap between those who have, and those who don't. And, don't even get me started on the Healthcare crisis where those who can least afford to pay, get hit the hardest!
In my lifetime, we already have seen an erosion of Social Security, the elimination of Company sponsored pension plans, and now my company even stopped matching our 401k Program. What does the future hold for our children? I'm afraid the future does not look bright, my friends.
To keep us under control, the Government is now targeting our guns. If they take away our guns, we will be serfs dependent on the government, or those who have the cash. It's time to wake up before it's too late. I see a revolution in our future but I'm not sure I will be around to witness it. This time it will not be a foreign enemy, it will come from within our borders and it will be Americans vs Americans again. Ironically, it could happen on the some of the same hallowed grounds that our forefathers fought on. Those with nothing to lose will fight the fiercest and hopefully the meek shall inherit the earth. May God bless us all.
Committed to Justice
I'm not sure if it will ever dawn on those in the Courthouse, but I'm not going away. They can try to play word games when denying Right To Know Requests and they can play dumb, but I'm not going to stop until I see that justice is done. Some of my latest RTK Requests are real eye-openers and do not paint those in the Courthouse in a good light. I cannot speak of these requests yet, but they will be disclosed at some point in time. The game playing just steels my resolve, it doesn't deter me.
I also find strength in my readers submissions. Thanks to a reader in Gardners for this!
While I can't go into detail about my RTK Requests yet, one or more of them is similar to this video which I hope you enjoy (only the video is much cuter)!
Hanging in There
Still busy behind the scenes. Today I asked the Court to withdraw the peremptory judgment action I filed. Basically, by filing the peremptory judgment order, I was asking the Court to make a decision. After I thought about it, I decided I don't want the Court to make a decision...not just yet! I've got too much good stuff to get out in the open before they do that. I want this all on record! This is turning out to be waaaay bigger than I expected and the County is beginning to involve more and more people, possibly asking them to do things they wouldn't ordinarily do. Who's asking them to do these things? I don't know yet...we'll need to wait and see. What are they doing? Can't tell you yet, sorry. All I can say is this...the Commissioners campaigned on openness and transparency, but that is far from what is happening in the Adams County Office of Open Records. For now, I'm going assume they are unaware of what's going on in that office, but if they don't, they better find out, and soon. The Commissioners set the policy, so as the Office of Open Records goes, so goes the Commissioners. They own that office as well as the Assessment Office. Seems that Open Records are all but "Open" in Adams County.
Recently I happened upon a bombshell! Now, I can tie it all together and this is huge! As they say in poker, "I'M ALL IN"! I can't wait to show my hand...and see the look on someone's face...
The Property Tax Independence Act, Is Back
The Property Tax Independence Act is back on the Legislature's agenda. It didn't have enough support last year as there were too many questions unanswered about the funding. Supporters have been busy trying to answer those questions and they have introduced HB 76 and SB 76. This is probably the best chance we have yet, to rid ourselves of the archaic School Tax that saddles too many homeowners with a burden they cannot afford. While it does not eliminate property taxes altogether, the School Tax is the heaviest levied by all the taxing districts. County and Local taxes will survive under this plan. My personal fight against Adams County's alleged unfair shifting of taxes will be somewhat muted if this bill gets passed. Adams County's wacky administration of the Clean & Green Law passes an enormous amount of tax burden from one group of folks to another. This bill would zap some of the sting out of that burden and would go a long way toward leveling the playing field for property owners across the county. It's very important you let your Representatives know you want them to support this initiative! Read David Baldinger's plea to support the Bill and follow the links to find out more about the plan.
Passing such a bill will go a long way in preventing the injustices that happened in Adams County, much like those in Allegheny County. Not only is it alleged that Allegheny County received a windfall in taxes after their reassessment (which their County Controller may litigate against), it is reported by the same County Controller that the contract failed to protect citizens and the County by failing to hold the vendor (Tyler Technologies) accountable to industry standards. Even more impressive is that Allegheny County even posted Chelsa Wagner's (the Controller) not-so-glowing report on Allegheny's website for all to see. NEVER, would you EVER, see such a report on Adams County's website!! Nosirree...nothing but positive, kumbaya inducing material gets posted on the Adams County website. Hell, our officials never even disagree anymore. It's just one big love-fest in the Adams County Courthouse. Ages ago, Commissioners would vehemently argue issues. This was healthy, my friends! It's good to have differing opinions and debate them, especially publicly. There are no longer debates in Adams County. Everything takes place behind the scenes and votes are taken after the debates (if there are any) have been decided. It's been a long time since we had a split-vote in Adams County.
Adams County residents know all-too-well how our reassessment turned out with 21st Century Appraisals, now there is Tyler Technologies being questioned. How about this...let's just rid ourselves of property taxes altogether! First, support the Property Tax Independence Act as in HB 76 to eliminate school taxes, and then we'll work on getting rid of County & Local taxes. It's time to draw the line in the sand.
While we're at it, golfer Phil Mickelson, has a point and so does the author of this article. It's time to stop taxing hard working Americans, by taxing work...it's time to start taxing wealth, instead! Why penalize those who work hard, and not tax other forms of income the same?
Recycling & Re-Purposing
While I do think it is important to recycle plastics and the like to prevent these things from languishing in our landfills for eternity, re-purposing things also plays an important role. If you can use something for other than its intended use, it delays the inevitable...and saves some money to boot! What am I getting at? I was getting ready to change my oil in my car the other day and was looking around for something to protect my garage floor from getting soiled. I nearly didn't find anything until I spotted an election poster in the corner of my garage. It was made of cardboard (absorbent), laid flat (perfect), and was the ideal size. And, of course, I didn't figure on needing it anymore, so it was a no-brainer. If anyone else has some of those Jim Martin posters, they make a really good way to keep your garage floor unsoiled. I imagine a Qually poster would serve the same task, but I didn't have any of those. I may need my Paul Kellett posters again...so I'll hang on to those.
County to Check Compliance of Clean & Green Parcels
Adams County has announced that they will be checking compliance of Clean & Green enrolled parcels.
These actions however, could be akin to someone robbing a store and then returning the money and expecting not to be charged with robbery. Kind of like a person getting arrested for DUI and before their court date, entering into an alcohol abuse program hoping for compassion from the court. A person (or agency) can't correct a prior bad act by suddenly performing a good act, especially if they were mandated by law to perform the good act all along. That person (or agency) would still have to answer for their prior behavior. Perhaps that person's (or agency's) biggest concern would then be to avoid retroactive punishment for their previous alleged misdeeds.
So really, very little changes regarding the pending litigation. They've got to "get it right", because if they don't...they could be doing it all over again at additional taxpayer expense. The Commissioners can then explain to their constituency why they didn't get it right the first time. Also recognize the fact that in the civil litigation...all it takes is a preponderance of the evidence. That means all I have to do is convince the judge that the merits of my evidence tilts the scales of justice slightly in my favor. I think that's very achievable.
Note: This website could become very boring in the coming months due to the pending litigation. The above is about all you'll be hearing from me for awhile. I'm not about to help the county get themselves out of this pickle.
Swaps Are Bad, Very Bad
Mr. Bill (Dana) told ya so. In fact, Mr. Bill even pledged his assistance to help Adams County negotiate its way out of the swaps we have entered into, for the princely sum of $1.00. As we know, Mr. Bill's offer was declined by the previous Board of Commissioners. For more on the volatile nature of swaps, click the link below.
Hanover Evening Sun Article
12/14/12 Updated 12/20/12
The Hanover Evening Sun reported on the suit filed below, however I am not happy with the article's interpretation of my stance, so I am not reprinting, nor linking to the article. The article infers, that I am an opponent of the Clean & Green Program. I am not an opponent of the Program...I understand the importance of preserving land and support helping farmers hold onto their land. I therefore submitted a Letter to the Editor which generally includes the following (amended due to the original word count):
"An article on the Eveningsun.com on December 13, 2012 regarding my litigation against Adams County, portrayed me as an opponent of the Clean & Green Program. That is far from the truth. I understand the importance of preserving land and saving the family farm. I am however, opposed to the blatant shifting of taxes to the unwitting public through the gross mismanagement of the Program. The current Adams County Commissioners campaigned to bring tax equity and fairness to their constituents, however they are now preparing to spend significant taxpayer funds to fight against those same principles their electioneering trumpeted. I am committed and prepared to fight the tax injustices that our Adams County leaders are so staunchly defending. I cannot, by law, litigate on behalf of anybody else, however if I am successful, the majority of Adams County real property owners will benefit. I corresponded with two different Boards of County Commissioners for over two years to encourage them to "make things right". They've all staunchly stood their ground even though they've acknowledged by their actions (changing assessments on certain parcels), that my claims indeed have merit. They are in for a long and unrelenting battle, in which they will waste tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars, preventing them from securing significant new revenue, from previously untapped sources. If they insist to resist, this could turn into a landmark case. I look forward to championing the cause for those who cannot. Unlike the Commissioners, I'm actually doing something to bring tax equity and tax fairness to all Adams County residents, because it's the right thing to do."
I had to "prove" the value of my 1/2 acre unbuildable (non-perc) Carroll Valley lot by submitting evidence of its soil capability and when the evidence was not accepted at my Formal Hearing by the former County Commissioners, I was forced to file in the Court of Common Pleas where I submitted the exact same evidence and finally had my land value adjusted accordingly. I want to be treated the same as every other property owner, and have them treated the same as myself. That's really what this is all about...
Gettysburg Times Reports on Suit
The Gettysburg Times today, reported on the suit filed below, on the front page of its paper. It was a well-written article by reporter Jess Haines that touched on the important points of the suit. It included the usual "no comments" from the Respondents and, please direct any inquiries to the Solicitor's office. The Solicitor, John Hartzell, was quoted in the article..."Mr. Hollinger is entitled to his perspective and viewpoint. He has a history of aggressively pursuing his agenda regarding county matters. The county has spent hundreds of hours and significant financial resources in researching and responding to his complaints. In the past, the vast majority of these requests have been reviewed and found to be without merit".
This quote is typical of the answers I have received over the years from the county. I acknowledge that I have tried various methods of trying to get our Public Officials to alter their way of doing things, particularly their methods of assessing properties and their insistence of shifting taxes from one group of property owners to another. I cannot force them do anything they are not mandated by law, to do. So...in essence, I am asking them to follow the law. By filing suit, I am asking the Court to MAKE THEM FOLLOW THE LAW, since they have resisted all of my attempts to persuade them, to voluntarily do so! Is that too much to ask of our Public Officials? So, yes...I have aggressively sought methods to make our Public Officials obey the law. It appears the county is posturing to spend real, significant resources to fight this battle which, seemingly would net them substantial additional tax base (read revenue). Ask yourself...why would they do that? Better yet, maybe I'll ask that of the Respondents when they are called to testify.
My Agenda = Require our County Officials Obey / Abide by, the Law
I have asked for, and obtained permission from the Gettysburg Times, to post this article in its entirety (without any changes). As I've always maintained throughout this website...keep an open mind and weigh the facts carefully. I have diligently documented my position within these pages. Feel free to browse to gain insight on the County's assessment practices. 89% of the county's property owners could benefit if I'm successful, as the county could be the beneficiary of a boost in revenue through new valuations on currently under-valued properties. Those enrolled in the Clean & Green Program will see no difference (or perhaps even a slight benefit over the next few years) in their tax bills IF: they are real farmers producing a real agricultural commodity, OR, if they have accurately described their land-use over the years. It is very possible, even likely, that even if you have described your land-use accurately, the county has not applied the law correctly. If that is the case, there is a provision in the Act that disallows rollback taxes to be collected in the event of an error (intentional, or not) on the Chief Assessor's part. If land-use changed over the years and it is not the result of an error on the county's part, you may be accountable for rollback taxes for not notifying the county of the land-use change.
Adams County Sued, Again!
Two weeks ago today, I filed a Complaint of Mandamus in the Court of Common Pleas. Such action is very similar to the action filed against the County by the small Group known as FACTnow, that caused the county-wide reassessment to initially take place. I have decided to file this action because our county officials have ferverishly resisted assessing the Clean & Green properties according to the written law, and the subsequent case law that has evolved since the Program has begun. It is very important to understand, that I cannot force the county to do anything that they are not mandated by law, to do. This is consistent with what I've been requesting all along....just administer the Program according to law. I have exhausted all efforts to urge the county to do not only what is mandated by law, but to do what is right and just. The Assessment Office personnel have a fiduciary duty to represent ALL real property owners equally, and assess ALL of Adams County real property according to the law. As public employees, they represent ALL real property owners, NOT just the 11% who are eligible for this Program.
For two years or better, spanning two different boards of County Commissioners, I have been rebuffed by all of them. They have stood their ground despite the countless examples (sometimes absurd) of non-uniform and ridiculous assessment techniques employed by the County. These can be seen throughout these web pages. I have not divulged all examples of course, as I have held some back for evidence, to be used in court. The County has even been so bold to proclaim that they are "following C&G guidelines properly. Just because you are [I am] dissatisfied, is no indication that the county has done something improper." Well, Commissioners...we shall see. If anything comes from the action I filed, it will be because you weren't doing everything proper, and/or according to the law, because remember...I can't force you to do something you are not already mandated to do!
The County has had plenty of time to comply with not only my wishes, but those of many others that recognize that something fishy is going on in Adams County. At one time I was content to allow the County to make the necessary changes to the Program (as administered by the County) and be on with my life. Because they have taken the stand they have taken, the price of poker has now gone up. Not only do I now want them to administer the Program according to the law, I am seeking compensatory damages, as well as substantial punitive damages, payable only in the event they fail to administer the Program according to all written, and interpreted law. I am preparing to go the distance pro se (by myself), to make sure that all of the practices employed by the County over the past two decades, gets "on the record". These practices I speak of, sometimes reach over the boundary of law (now, I know what Hartzell was talking about), and sometimes common sense. I will show that not only did the County step outside those boundaries of law, I will show that they interpreted law to suit themselves, and they even tried to alter the law, by making their own! Being a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, they are bound by the laws handed down by the Commonwealth and have ONLY the powers that are "expressly granted unto them", by the Pennsylvania Legislature, also known as Dillon's Rule. Which means that the County cannot, and may not attempt to alter the wishes of the Pennsylvania Legislature! All of their actions, or lack thereof, over the last two decades shifted taxes from one group of property owners, to another.
It will be interesting to see what comes of my filing and how the County defends their position. My request to have the County administer the Program properly, will no doubt enhance the County's tax base, and therefore add revenue to their coffers. Should they decide to fight this filing in court, they essentially will be spending taxpayers monies to prevent them from receiving additional revenue. How absurd would that be?! But, that's how we operate in Adams County. Imagine the County pleading with the Judge...please your Honor, don't force us to accept more money...we don't NEED more money! Matter of fact, we are willing to spend taxpayer monies to our attorney, John Painintheneck, to prevent us from receiving more money!
How will this affect real property owners in Adams County? Currently, 89% of Adams County real property owners are not eligible for the Clean & Green Program. For them, it will mean that since the County will be receiving more revenue, any future millage increases could be pushed further down the road. Realistically, there could be substantial revenue boosts for each taxing district. However, to expect that these taxing bodies would actually reduce the millage rates, is not realistic. That only happens in Mt. Joy township. This action will NOT harm real farmers! In fact, it will help them! As it stands now, the tax base is artificially reduced because a lot of acreage is receiving preferential assessments that should not, or would not, be getting those reductions if the Program was administered according to existing law. Not administering the Program properly artificially reduces the revenue for that acreage, thus forcing real farmers to realize a heavier tax burden for the improvements on their own parcels. The County needs a certain amount of revenue in which to operate. Make no mistake...they will get that revenue...but who they get it from is what's at stake here. Everybody is supposed to pay "their fair share", according to the law.
Of course, the Court needs to accept my argument for this to proceed further. I cannot envision a circumstance that they would not accept it. Of course, the County will challenge my standing, but I am harmed by their actions as much as everybody else (the 89%) that is not eligible for, nor enrolled in the Program. I cannot sue the County on the behalf of anybody else, but if I am successful in my endeavor on my own behalf, it will no doubt benefit the majority of Adams County.
I have not heard a thing from the Court since my filing, however I suspect that this is being passed from one Judge to another, like a hot potato. None will want to hear this case, and most are probably enrolled in the Program, themselves. Those that are enrolled in the Program may need to recuse themselves from hearing the case. I have not researched yet, which Adams County Judges are enrolled in the C&G Program. It may be quite possible, a Judge from outside Adams County will need to be brought in the hear this case. That would be the proper thing to do. When there is a conflict of interest, a party should step aside to allow an impartial entity decide. That would be a stark contrast from what normally happens in Adams County...like when the Chief Assessor qualifies/approves her multiple parcels for preferential tax abatements, herself!
I am prepared for, and actually looking forward to, trying this in a Court of Law. I have a mental list of subjects I want to subpoena for testimony which includes persons from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, several current/former Adams County Officials/employees, as well as some real property owners (and their records). This could get real interesting and there's a lot at stake here. Here's a partial list of what's at stake for the County:
This could be a lot of fun...
Note: I understand I have something at stake here too, but after the Judge gets a load of the reams of evidence and communications that I have compiled over the years to get some sort of satisfaction, I think he/she will understand that I had no other choice. The County has had every opportunity, through two administrations to do something, and they failed us all. This is no frivolous suit. This is real, and this is substantial, and the County and the Court, needs to get it right! If they don't consider this on my behalf, I'll be back next week with additional Plaintiffs, to file again.
To the few in the know...the lion's eyes are filled with blood, he is staggering and no longer represents the ferociousness that he once did. I think I will have some fun with his mane, now ;-)
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