News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.
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Maria Ajello

Maria Ajello’s Travails Reveal Flaws In Back-Tax Collection

EDITORIAL

Maria Ajello’s Travails Reveal

Flaws In Back-Tax Collection

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.

A comtemplative Maria Ajello reflects on her fate at the September 2014 county board meeting, two weeks after losing her house at a tax sale. Her advocate and friend, Russell Ahrens, speaks on her behalf. (AllOTSEGO.com photo)
A comtemplative Maria Ajello reflects on her fate at the September 2014 county board meeting, two weeks after losing her house at a tax sale. Her advocate and friend, Russell Ahrens, speaks on her behalf. (AllOTSEGO.com photo)

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.

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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.

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Resident Marks 24th Month Since Losing Home To Taxes

Resident Marks 24th Month

Since Losing Home To Taxes

Listening to a tearful Maria Ajello are, from left, county reps Len Carson, R-Oneonta, Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, Craig Gelbsman, R-Oneonta, and Andrew Marietta, D-Cooperstown/Town of Otsego.
Listening to a tearful Maria Ajello are, from left, county reps Len Carson, R-Oneonta, Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, Craig Gelbsman, R-Oneonta, and Andrew Marietta, D-Cooperstown/Town of Otsego. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

County Reps Unswayed By Citizen’s Plea

Russell Ahrens, a friend, advocates on Mrs. Ajello's behalf.
Russell Ahrens, a friend, advocates on Mrs. Ajello’s behalf.

By JIM KEVLIN • for www.AllOTSEGO.com

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.

County Attorney Ellen Coccoma
County Attorney Ellen Coccoma

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.

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That Judges Returned 2 Homes Energizes 2 Trying To Save Theirs

That Judges Returned 2 Homes

Energizes 2 Trying To Save Theirs

Veteran Robert Force, who is trying to regain his Town of Butternuts property taken from his in last year's delinquent-tax auction, gives an American flags he carried to postings around the world to county Rep. Betty Anne Schwerd, R-Edmeston, the only rep, he said, who's given him a sympathetic ear.  When he last appeared with his flag at a county board meeting, some reps joked about it, he said. (Jim Kevlin/allotsego.com)
Veteran Robert Force, who is trying to regain his Town of Butternuts property taken from him in last year’s delinquent-tax auction, gives an American flag he carried to postings around the world to county Rep. Betty Anne Schwerd, R-Edmeston, the only rep, he said, who’s given him a sympathetic ear. When he last appeared with his flag at a county board meeting, some reps joked about it, he said. (Jim Kevlin/allotsego.com)
In an unusual move, Joe Mahoney, Daily Star county reporter, challenges the county board this morning for not addressing Veteran Office director Jack Henson's plea for clemency toward tax-deliquent veterans.
In an unusual move, Joe Mahoney, Daily Star county reporter, challenges the county board this morning for not addressing Veteran Office director Jack Henson’s plea for clemency toward tax-deliquent veterans.

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.

READ ROBERT FORCE’S NOVEMBER PRESENTATION TO COUNTY BOARD

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