Court Case Costs Taxpayers $86,000

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Judge Amanda Mercier has awarded Lois Spence $86,000 for attorney’s fees in her case against Gilmer County Tax Assessors’ Office.

In September, the Gilmer County Tax Assessors’ Office lost a years-long case against Gilmer County resident Lois Spence. The case was a dispute over Spence’s property assessment, which she claimed was incorrectly assessed by the assessors’ office. Previously Spence argued her land should be valued at $52,000, while the assessors’ office asserted the land should be assessed on fair market value at $117,711. The case moved in and out of court over the last few years, Spence winning the prior case before Chief Appraiser Richard Lamb filed an appeal bringing it back to court this September. In the end, the Jury ruled in favor of Spence. As such, Judge Mercier awarded Spence $86,000 for her attorney’s fees to be paid by the Gilmer County Assessor’s Office via taxpayers. In addition to the $86,000, taxpayers will also pay for the assessors’ office attorney fees, which could equal or exceed the plaintiff’s amount.

During this month’s assessors’ meeting, board member Randy Bell asked if the assessor’s board was over its budget for this year due to the settlement. Lamb said it would cause the assessors’ office to be over budget this year, but added that the budget has enough money to pay for it next year.

“The billing won’t be until next year,”

he said, but as for this year, he said,

“we’re broke.”

In a conversation with FYN today, Lamb explained that funds in the professional fees budget are used to pay for attorney fees. As of September, he said, this budget had $59,093. Since September, though, he said the office has had to pay for some expenses. In an email this week, Lamb said the assessors’ office will be over budget $20,000 this year.

FYN has contacted the Gilmer County Commissioners’ Office to find out how the county will pay the settlement and have yet to receive a response. We have also are inquiring into the cost of assessors’ attorney’s fees.

FYN will report on this story as details are made available. To view the meeting in full, please watch the video below:

2012 Nov Gilmer Gov Board Of Assessors from Fetch on Vimeo.

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