Desert Tortoise




This old legal adage can be traced to several sources but can’t be verified specifically to anyone. However the maxim remains absolute. If you are entitled to justice you should not be deprived of it until a later time; especially due to bureaucratic incompetence and malevolence.


In December of 2011 a Pittsburgh taxpayer filed for an informal appeal of his 2012/2013 assessment when they raised his assessment from $457,000 to $1,003,700. He was never scheduled for a hearing, so he called and was told his appeal was on “suspension”. The taxpayer was unfamiliar with this term and followed up by filing a formal appeal which was heard by a hearing officer (credentials not known) October 13, 2012. Taxpayer submitted a Certified Residential Appraisal by a well known appraiser highly respected by his peers, valuing the property at $665,000. No other rebutting appraisal was submitted by the taxing bodies. Guess what? On March 22, 2013   after six months more delay, the so called unbiased Board of Assessment Appeals denied taxpayer’s appeal maintaining the 2013 ridiculously high value with zero, no, nentay, nada, zilch evidence to back it up. This is when the taxpayer called me to represent him. On April 17, 2013 we filed the denial to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County which costs $106.00 for a filing fee plus the office costs to notify all the lawyers for all the taxing bodies involved as well as the Assessment Board lawyer. Here’s the perfect ending.


After a full year we had a conciliation/hearing scheduled with the Board of Viewers (Common Pleas Court) on May 28, 2014. The taxing bodies offered a settlement value of $670,000 which we accepted. A measly $5,000 over our appraised value of $665,000. After three years and a truckload of paperwork, e-mails, phone calls and BS the issue was reduced to a $5,000 difference. What a waste of time and money. Of course, the taxpayer was forced to pay the taxes due on the million dollar house for 2013 and 2014. Yes, he will get a refund, but how about interest. I bet not. How about his legal fees? I bet not. How about the inconvenience of waiting three years to get an answer from a flawed system?


The rule of law is that you can’t sue a government agency for violating your federal constitutional rights as long as there is an adequate state remedy to solve the issue. I don’t believe this remedy is adequate to this taxpayer, and his rights of due process were violated by an incompetent and or biased Appeals Board and Assessment Office. This is just one of thousands of cases of Allegheny County Board of Assessment Appeals violating the due process rights of the taxpayers and we can’t sue them. Ain’t it a shame?


There oughta be a law.

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