Judge considers case against recorder of deeds

March 15, 2013

Washington County President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca heard arguments this week in a case dealing with a dispute over identifying property purchasers by name.

Jan Ondra and Billy Joe Sanders took Recorder of Deeds Debbie Bardella to court because they have been prohibited or delayed in recording trusts as the owners of property without identifying individuals who are trustees.

“They’ve had to wait as much as a year to get these deeds,” their attorney, Herbert Terrell, argued Thursday.

Bardella’s attorney, Thomas Vreeland, said the plaintiffs were cavalier in using terms such as discrimination, fraud and “clear and present danger” without presenting examples or evidence.

“There are no facts to support that,” he argued, asking that the language be stricken.

Terrell claimed that additional liens could accumulate on properties during the time between a public sale, such as those conducted by the sheriff or tax claim bureau, and the recording of the new owner.

Ondra and Sanders are not seeking damages in their suit, but Terrell said he wants to reserve his right to seek filing fees and other costs related to the court action, such as taking sworn depositions.

“Case law does require that we plead the right to incidental damages or we lose that right,” Terrell told the judge. “We can’t go back in time and request that sort of relief.”

O’Dell Seneca did not rule from the bench.

Bardella said after arguments concluded that she, recorder’s office solicitor Blane Black and Sanders plan to meet next week to discuss addresses required for county tax assessment records.

Along with her elected office of recorder of deeds, Bardella also is director of the Washington County Tax Revenue Department, which includes the tax claim and tax assessment offices.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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