Editor’s note: At readers’ requests that this editorial reach the widest local readership possible, it is being reprinted from the Hometown Oneonta & Freeman’s Journal editions of Sept. 15-16.
It’s time to bring Maria Ajello’s ordeal to an end, to end an unpleasantness – an injustice, even – that has been simmering for 24 months now, as she reminded the Otsego County Board of Representatives at its September meeting on the 7th.
On Aug. 20, 2014, the date of the Otsego County treasurer’s annual auction of tax-delinquent properties at the Holiday Inn on Oneonta’s Southside, Mrs. Ajello arrived with payment of the $6,700 owed, plus an additional $2,299 in interest charges.
She was ready to pay the $8,999 total she owed on a house and 74 acres at 104 Filburn Road, hamlet of Monticello, Town of Richfield.
Due to a policy still in place, the payment was denied, and the house and land auctioned off for $75,000, plus the auctioneer’s 10 percent fee, a total $82,500. So the County of Otsego garnered a profit of $65,001 – 650 percent – on the $8,999 total back taxes and penalties.
COOPERSTOWN – As she has at every county Board of Representatives’ meeting since losing her home in the county’s annual tax sale in August 2014, tearful Maria Ajello, formerly of the Town of Richfield, pleaded to get her home back for the 24th time at this morning’s meeting.
She noted that, for two years as of today, she has appeared monthly every month to argue her case, to no avail. “I begged, I pleaded,” she said.
Again, the county board this morning took no action. Since Betty Anne Schwerd, R-Edmeston, retired from the board at the beginning of this year, none of the reps has taken up Ajello’s cause.
COOPERSTOWN – Two citizens’ efforts to buy back their homes sold off for delinquent taxes in last year’s tax sale were in the forefront again during public comment at the county Board of Representatives’ February meeting this morning, following a report that, due to irregularities, a judge had thrown out two other tax sales.
Maria Ajello, who lost her home in the Town of Richfield, and Robert Force, who lost his home and 99 acres in the Town of Butternuts, both spoke with emotion this morning to 14 stolid representatives who, on advice of counsel, have declined to say anything about the issue until resulting lawsuits are resolved.
In an unusual move, Joe Mahoney, the Daily Star’s county reporter who wrote the article on the two resolved cases, took to the floor during public comment, asking why, in two months, no county board member has responded to county Veterans Office director Jack Henson, who asked for special consideration of vets. Mahoney received no answer today.