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Attorneys selected to sit on Allegheny County board that hears property assessment appeals

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By Bobby Kerlik
Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012, 2:58 p.m.
 

Allegheny County judges selected two familiar names on Thursday to fill open slots on the county's Board of Viewers, which hears property assessment appeals.

Helen Lynch, who is an attorney, real estate agent and criminal court administrator, and attorney Stephen Farino won the secret ballot election by the county's 43 Common Pleas Court judges. Both will earn $60,405 a year in their new posts, a large pay cut for Lynch.

Court staff said Lynch, whose annual salary as criminal court administrator is $118,905, will likely leave that job by next month.

Lynch and Farino did not return calls for comment.

Lynch, 62, of Ross is friends with President Judge Donna Jo McDaniel.

Farino is the son of retired Common Pleas Judge S. Louis Farino. He has worked as a law clerk for the county's senior judges.

McDaniel declined to comment, but Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, administrative judge of the criminal division, said Lynch and Farino are highly qualified. He said neither Lynch nor Farino won because of connections.

“We selected two highly qualified lawyers to serve on the Board of Viewers, which has become extremely important,” Manning said. “I will sorely miss her as court administrator,” he said of Lynch.

Manning said Lynch was instrumental in applying successful court programs such as Phoenix Court, a fast-track court for lower-level offenses that has cut the court's backlog, and other programs for drunken-driving offenders and probation reporting centers.

The Board of Viewers is the last step in the property appeals process before the matter reaches a judge. If property owners don't like the outcome of their hearing before the county's Board of Property Assessment and Review, they can pay $106 and appeal to the Board of Viewers, which has seven members. The board also hears eminent domain cases.

Cases can be brought by the property owner, a school district, a municipality or the county. The board can raise, lower or keep the assessment of the property.

Michelle Lally, the administrative chairman of the board, said she was pleased with the selections. She said it's important to have a full board with the expected “avalanche” of appeals related to the county's recent property reassessment. More than 100,000 initial appeals have been filed.

Lynch and Farino will take the spots vacated by Paul Cozza, who will fill an open seat on the county bench, and William McGrady, who died in June. They join Michele Zappala Peck, Mary Dauer Colville, Barbara Utterback and Carmen DeChellis on the board.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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