Patchogue Property Tax Scam allows Pontieri’s Buds a free ride

March 13 2012 :  Today’s Newday story snapshots how tax assessment scams  works.  Patchogue takes this lack of oversight to a new level, to reward Mayor’s buddies. Unequal code and zoning enforcement and the rigged permit process allows Mayors friends to pay less property tax.

Southampton Village officials are working to reassess more than 100 homes following the recent discovery that a series of clerical mistakes dating to 2004 led to improper assessments.

The error was caught last year when the Southampton Association, a civic group, noticed that the assessment for a property of former town trustee Paul Robinson was not changed after renovations were completed on one of his homes. The group alerted the state attorney general’s office, which referred the group back to the village saying it was a local matter, said Mayor Mark Epley.

While researching that complaint, village officials looked at 2,500 permits dating back to 2004 and found that 108 homes were never reassessed after obtaining a certificate of occupancy.

According to officials, a building department clerk who is no longer with the village would “close out” the month a few days early and exclude the remaining days from the building report.

As a result, permits filed at the end of the month were left out of the process and were not received by the tax assessors or the tax receiver’s office, according to Epley. Most of the mistakes happened during 2004 and 2005, said Epley and Village Administrator Stephen Funsch.

“What we found is that, in the system, there were no checks and balances,” Epley said. “We have since corrected that.”

At a village trustee meeting on Thursday, two residents spoke about the error, saying it was the village’s responsibility to ensure safeguards are in place. Epley and other trustees agreed, adding that a newly installed computer system would now catch a similar error.

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