The Boston Town Clerk is now under formal investigation regarding a house that she purchased in 2012. The investigation is looking into paperwork that seems to be missing which would explain why the assessment of the home was reduced by $91,000 four days before its official purchase. Corporate and business transactions attorney Michael Schiavone, who is acting as outside counsel for the Town of Boston on this case, spoke to WGRZ about the details and how the investigation has been proceeding. The full story is available on the WGRZ website.
According to WGRZ, in 2012 Boston Town Clerk Jennifer Mule purchased a home that was assessed at $128,000. Four days before her official purchase, the assessment of the house was lowered by $91,000 and the paperwork that would explain this reduction is missing. “What’s interesting is that a normal taxpayer would file a grievance to challenge an assessment and then there would be a due process where the assessment was reduced,” Mr. Schiavone explained. “That didn’t happen here.”
In the sale information and assessment paperwork for the home, there is a description of fire damage that WGRZ reports would merit assessment reduction. Additionally, according to WGRZ, Mule and her partner Gary Ballowe had renovations done on the home to repair the damage, which Mr. Schiavone says is also not documented. “The records indicate that the house was damaged by fire, and there was structural damage. Additionally, it appears as though the house was substantially renovated. When that happens, the normal procedure is that you file a building permit,” he told WGRZ.
The building permit that should be filed would initiate several different home inspections, all of which WGRZ reports there should be records of. “None of those procedures were followed,” Mr. Schiavone told WGRZ. “We have a house that was built under cloak of secrecy without any appropriate procedures being followed and without the appropriate building permits being pulled.”
Tax savings for Clerk
According to WGRZ, the years during which Mule’s house was not reassessed mean thousands of dollars in tax revenue that she has not paid to the town for which she serves as Town Clerk. “If you look at an average effective tax rate throughout the county of somewhere in the $35 dollars per thousand range and you multiply that by 91, that’ll give you an indication that there would be substantial tax savings by virtue of the reduced assessment,” Mr. Schiavone explained.
Questions about primary place of residence
WGRZ reports that there is also an investigation into whether or not that house is actually Mule’s primary residence. It is possible that she is living with her partner in Angola, which violates a state law that requires elected officials to reside in the municipalities they serve. Mr. Schiavone told WGRZ that “all indications are that she may actually live elsewhere” and he will be looking into things such as where she parks her car, where she votes, and where her mail is delivered in order to determine her place of residence.
About Michael Schiavone
The chair of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Business and Corporate Practice Area, Mr. Schiavone has provided legal guidance to businesses for more than 30 years. He concentrates his practice in the areas of business law, commercial real estate, and estate planning, and he serves clients in a range of industries that includes franchises, hotel and hospitality chains, banking and finance, health care, manufacturing and distribution, and professional sports teams.