Friday, June 8, 2012

Town loses with deal

Besides screwing up a workable budget, the Select-board is also morally bankrupt..

Submitted in the Opinion Section of the Keene Sentinel and published today June 08,2012

When I was a selectman, the most heart-wrenching responsibility was the possibility of having to take someone’s property for nonpayment of taxes.

Fortunately, the law allows selectmen discretion in this area, and I was pleased that in several cases I could be instrumental in working out solutions that both settled the tax debt and allowed people to keep their homes. Those are called win-win situations.

Sadly, not all members of the board were so eager to find such solutions, and one was almost lustful in his zeal to seize property.

There were also many pieces of property that the town had owned for years and had just sat off the tax rolls. Most were little bits and pieces. Some of these were auctioned, and it was common practice that abutters, as the most likely competitive bidders, were made aware of the auctions.

One decision the board made was to auction the tannery property, taken for taxes many years earlier. The town manager chose to ignore the board’s direct instructions and instead listed the property with a Realtor.
“Back room” support of board members allowed his action to stand unchallenged, and the property still sits idle, yielding neither sales revenue nor taxes.

Recently, the select board voted to auction off a small lot with a double truck garage at 50 Rabbit Hollow Road, earlier taken for taxes. The board also decided to set no minimum bid.

Although the board may have met the bare legal requirements for posting, the auction came and went with hardly anyone knowing about it.

Abutters, who might have been willing to pay the most, were not notified.

The property was purchased by Selectman Gus Ruth for $12,533. The assessed value is $119,300. (Back taxes, at 18 percent annual interest, are forgiven when property is auctioned).

Although it may not be illegal for a selectman to vote to take property, to vote to auction it with no minimum bid, and to quietly snap it up at bargain basement prices, is morally repugnant.

This was a lose-lose situation. The property owner lost and the taxpayers lost, first by not recovering back taxes and then by not receiving a better price for the property.

The only winner was Ruth. It will be interesting to see whether he benefits from use of the property, or if he just flips it for a tidy profit.




Anonymous said...

John Hadley who lives next door to the garage never knew of the auction. Where were the signs that have cover the town every time a home goes up for auction. The sign are there for weeks

If you read the Manchester Union Leader on Thursday you would have seen the auction posted under auctioneer James R. St Jean. Other wise there was nothing.

It looks like the team at the town hall prevail for now. I would hate to be in these scoundrels shoes. Terry Qualters is no one I would cross.

Had enough yet? said...

You can only push people so far, things like this, the unethical takeover of the budget committee, or lying about the intent of your investment on main street, will backfire sooner or later. Looks like its time for Mr. Ruth to load up his motor home and hit the road. It would be nice if he took a couple of his friends with him.

Anonymous said...

This is definately a case of CONFLICT OF INTEREST and selectman Ruth should be recalled and removed from office. There is a protocal to auctioning properties owned by the Town (which means we all own it and deserve the best price available for we the taxpayers.) Ruth is a theif plain and simple. He probably met the minimum standard, by advertising in any paper....but since when does the Town of Winchester advertise property auctions only in a paper out of the area?

Anonymous said...

The most recent town report shows the Town of Winchester owning 73 pieces of property. Some are for legitimate town purposes. Some are "conservation" properties and parks no one uses. (Like the canoe removal area and pavilion.) How many others should be sold to generate revenues and restore them to the tax rolls? How many will be quietly auctioned and snapped up by insiders? We should get up a petition for a warrant article to rename the town "Crookedville." Ah, I can see the welcome sign in my mind.

Anonymous said...

I guess you have to be named Margaret or Roberta to be forgiven for back taxes in Winchester. There's no such thing as fairness when it comes to insiders and the rest of the town's people. And Gus too, isn't that right Gus? When are you going to pay the town's people back for all the damage you cause to Very Brook Road?

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the town losing, word is Margaret starts full time in July and Leroy is done in December. Some people think she may hire her husband as her assistant, that crew is just arrogant enough to do that. Once again the insiders put themselves first over the people of Winchester. What's next, do they make Joan Morell town manager so she can take the fall for all the bs like they did to Stetsor?

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I wonder how they are going to pay her with the upcoming DRA ordered budget cuts. Those cuts stand unless or until they are reversed by the DRA. Doubt if a judge can overrule a legal election.

BTW - Stetser was no fall guy. He was in the thick of the shenanigans. I don't think anyone could come up with one competent, positive thing he did for the town. Also, they can't make anyone a TM. The people have to vote for that. Why not educate yourself to the laws?

Selectmen can never be trapped for being unethical. They have to actually violate very few, very specific laws. For instance, misappropriation of funds.

Anonymous said...

Understand Stetsor has big problems in Hillsborough.

Anonymous said...

I am shocked that so few have so little to say about this matter.
Why cant we as voters come up with a warrant article for the next election to avoid situations like this. we can demand the selectman advertise these auctions in several local papers, the towns web site etc, etc. we can demand they have a minimum bid and we can also demand that selectman and their families are not allowed to bid on these properties.
This as a whole seems so wrong and did not benefit anyone but Gus. its our property at this point and our money we deserve the maximum price. I can see the day when the selectman start taking over desirable property so they can end up with it dirt cheep
We as a town and voters need to demand a better policy.

Frustrated said...

Definitely and absolutely agree with the 11:09 am "anonymous" poster view of the situation..This type of thing should never be allowed to happen again. We, along with the prior owner, are the losers.

Anonymous said...

Who on this site knows anything about writing warrant articles? I dont think getting the signatures will be hard.

Anonymous said...

Word is that Gus Ruth has a partner on the Qualters steal.