NORWALK, Conn. – Information still has not made its way to a Wilson Point woman despite her victories in her ardent battle over her Norwalk tax assessment.
Lynnelle Jones took the city to court over the tax assessment done on her aging home at 10 Point Road, and the judge ruled for a compromise assessment reduction – in her mind, a loss, after four years of effort and frustration. She then took the city to the Freedom of Information Commission, where, on May 22, commissioners ordered the city to get her documents she seeks to validate her argument.
The only thing that has happened since then was another trip to Hartford, she said.
“What a complete waste of time,” she said of her attendance at the June 26 non-hearing, at which commissioners did not allow Norwalk Associate Corporation Counsel Brian McCann to present his case challenging the decision rendered on May 22.
Jones has been seeking the results of an appraisal done by Sheehy Associates LLC in reference to the 2008 valuation of her home, which she owns with her husband, William Lipschutz. She would also like a copy of minutes taken at a May 29, 2009, Board of Assessment Appeals hearing, which contested the valuation.
Jones suspects that Sheehy’s appraisal matched hers. She wants a copy to use as possible evidence of fraud and corruption.
“It’s all over, but I just feel I have a right to this information,” she said to the commissioners.
No city representatives made it to the March 25 preliminary hearing on Jones’ complaint, which, Jones said, is not viewed upon favorably by the commission. Assistant Corporation Counsel Diane Beltz-Jacobson made the city’s case at the June 26 hearing in front of the full commission, claiming that neither a written appraisal nor BAA minutes exist, despite the photos Jones has proving that an appraiser came to visit, a copy of a paid invoice to the appraiser in the amount of $1,500, and the obvious fact that the BAA meeting occurred.
It’s an argument that McCann tried to make again in his June 6 appeal, a six-page petition for reconsideration, alleging “errors of both fact and law” in the commission’s decision.
McCann argues that the commission ignored tax assessor Michael Stewart’s sworn affidavit and that the city cannot comply with the commission’s order because no written appraisal exists.
Jones did not expect him to succeed.
“The commission lady said it was highly unlikely the commission would be impressed given this is the first time Brian McCann would attend, but I have to go there,” she said in a June 13 email.
McCann was not allowed to testify. The commission’s decision stands.
To no avail, Jones said.
“Do you think in a month I have heard anything? Nada,” she said in an email.
McCann did not return a July 8 email asking how much time he has spent on the matter, and why he didn’t make it to the March 25 hearing.
Mayor Richard Moccia, Corporation Counsel Robert Maslan and McCann did not reply to a Monday email concerning the matter.
Jones said she is not only disgusted by the time she has spent, but the time the city has spent fighting her desire for information.
The six-page petition, which refers to six cases McCann researched to bolster his case, just proves “that more time was just wasted, more taxpayer resources just wasted … He knows the picture he used in court came from the appraiser. He wasted city time, taxpayer money, but what does he care?” she said, on June 26.
Still she was optimistic.
“Good news is this was a great decision for open government,” she said. “Now they have to go back and give all the information.”
But on Monday, it became apparent that she may have more time in court over the matter.
The city has 45 days from its receipt of the decision to appeal it to the courts, FOI Commission Public Education Officer Tom Hennick said in an email to NancyOnNorwalk. “Either party has 45 days to appeal the final ruling. After that 45 days has elapsed, an aggrieved party could file a non-compliance complaint with our commission. Any penalties would be at the discretion of the commission.”
That was news to Jones.
“I was not aware of this,” she said in an email. “This is very important. … Clearly I need to RE-COMPLAIN as they will do nothing.”