Washington County Sheriff Samuel Romano received a death threat in connection with Friday morning’s monthly sheriff’s sale of real estate on which lenders had foreclosed, causing the public meeting room of Courthouse Square to be emptied so that those present could undergo a security check for weapons.
A female caller who spoke with a sergeant at the sheriff’s office said someone was coming to the sale to shoot Romano. Although his name appears on legal documents related to sales of properties, the sales are conducted by Capts. James Altman and Anthony Interval of the sheriff’s department.
Romano said the anonymous caller did not refer to the sale of a particular property, and he was unable to immediately trace the origin of the call, which came from an unlisted phone number.
At the sale, the former home of Washintgon County Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan and her former husband, Robert J. Irey, president of the California University council of trustees, went on the auction block.
The 126 Diane Drive home in Carroll Township’s Amber Acres Plan was sold for $1,626 in sheriff’s costs to Community Bank, the mortgage holder and sole bidder. Sheriff’s documents list the grand total of the mortgage, fees, and interest, plus $2,461 in unpaid taxes to Ringgold School District, at $297,642.
Neither Irey Vaughan, vice chairman of the board of commissioners and the Republican candidate for state treasurer, nor her ex-husband attended the sheriff’s sale, which they said last month would be the case. They purchased the property from William J. and Candy M. Irey in 1992. They separated in August 2007 and were divorced a year later.
Both have since remarried, but their divorce, though finalized, is still being litigated. As part of a marriage settlement agreement, Diana L. Irey agreed in 2009 to convey her rights to the property to Robert Irey in a document known as a “quit claim.” Robert Irey lived in the home for a time, but he filed a quit claim in lieu of foreclosure in March 2011.
Irey Vaughan lives in Nottingham Township and Robert Irey lives on Pittsburgh’s South Side. Their names, however, remained on the Diane Drive mortgage with Community Bank.
When the home was listed among those in a legal advertisement last month, the commissioner called the sheriff’s sale “a very unfortunate event that is completely out of my control.”
Her ex-husband claimed he had been “evicted” by the court from the former marital residence in June 2011 at a hearing for which he received no notice.
Community Bank plans to put the property back on the market, said attorney Thomas Vreeland, who acted on the lender’s behalf at the sheriff’s sale. When the Ireys tried to sell the home, it was listed for between $285,000 and $300,000.
The threat against Romano delayed the start of the sale by about 15 minutes. Security checks had never been employed previously at such proceedings, although the sheriff said he understood how emotions would be running high when someone is about to lose a home. “It may be nothing, but we want to make sure we got it taken care of,” Romano said outside the public meeting room once the sale was in progress. “They just said they were coming up to kill me, to shoot me.”
Romano, who was elected in 2005 and is now serving his second term, said he planned to notify Washington police of the matter, and check with the county’s 911 center about tracing the call.
“We will be filing charges if we can find out who did it, certainly,” the sheriff said.