Share This Page

Rule on Allegheny County assessment appeal representation criticized

| Saturday, March 30, 2013, 12:21 a.m.

A proposal to change the way property owners may be represented during assessment appeals is drawing criticism from several Allegheny County Council members.

The county's Board of Property Assessment and Review approved a rule this month that requires property owners who pay for representation to appeal their assessments to hire an attorney or a certified property manager. Family, friends and others who represent people for free do not have to be attorneys or certified property managers.

The point of the change, according to board solicitor David Montgomery, is “to protect the public” and bring Allegheny County's standards in line with many others in the state.

“It prevents non-attorneys from representing people for compensation. We've seen a lot of problems with non-attorneys in terms of the quality and consistency — from being prepared to the quality of their evidence,” Montgomery said. “Our conclusion is that the public is better served to have attorneys and property managers.”

County council can scrap all rule changes the board proposes. Ten members signed onto a motion to stop the rule change from taking effect. A vote could come at council's meeting on Tuesday.

“For them to decide who a taxpayer needs to bring in front of them is not right. So (the board) is deciding who makes money?” said Jim Ellenbogen, D-Banksville. “Suppose your grandmother can't afford an attorney, but she knows a real estate professional who will do it for a couple bucks. It's her right to decide who can represent her.”

The proposed rule change would permit employees of organizations that own property, such as a school district business manager, to appear before the board.

Montgomery said council will have the final say and noted that the public has a recourse if an attorney does a poor job, such as reporting someone to the state's Disciplinary Board.

Amie Downs, spokeswoman for County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, said the administration supports council members who oppose the rule change.

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

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.