Maggi testifies for first time in property reassessment case

July 2, 2013
Commissioner Larry Maggi waits to give his deposition Tuesday at the law offices of Peacock Keller in Washington in connection with the dispute over property reassessment. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

For more than an hour Tuesday afternoon, Washington County Commission Chairman Larry Maggi answered questions about a court case that began five years ago and why the board of commissioners has thwarted the property reassessment the Washington and McGuffey school districts have sought.

It was the first time Maggi has testified under oath in the reassessment case. Tuesday’s proceeding took place, not in a courtroom, but in a conference room at attorney Susan Key’s law office at Peacock Keller on East Beau Street. It was not open to the public.

“There was nothing earth-shattering that was asked,” Maggi said afterward. Key represents Washington and McGuffey school districts. Representing Maggi at the deposition were County Solicitor Mary Lyn Drewitz and Robert Grimm, special counsel.

Maggi described the questions as dealing with the chronology of the case starting with a stipulation and order signed by Washington County President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca requiring the three-member board of commissioners to complete a reassessment during their then-current terms of office, which expired at the close of 2011.

Key also focused on interviews and comments Maggi made over the years in both the Observer-Reporter and in a televised press conference the commissioners called after a court date this past spring, the commissioner said.

“No matter what happens, I will never be a cheerleader for reassessment,” Maggi said at the March press conference. He has also said at various forums that he did not agree to reassess, although an affidavit he and board members at that time signed in 2008 states, “The parties (Maggi, Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan and then-commissioner Bracken Burns) agree that the Sept. 30, 2009, date by which to initiate the real estate re-evaluation process is reasonable.”

“Some of the things that I said in the paper were questioned,” Maggi said Tuesday. “I confirmed that was me and I made those statements.”

The county’s last property reassessment, conducted in 1979, took effect in 1981. County officials have said that a modern-day reassessment could cost $8 million.

Contacted after the deposition had concluded, Key wrote in an email that she had no comment. She tried to have the commissioners found in contempt of a court order both in 2011 and earlier this year. The reassessment case is next scheduled for court in late August.

On the eve of the last court date, as May drew to a close, the county opened proposals from three vendors seeking to perform the reassessment.

The commissioners meet only once in July and August. Asked if the commissioners will act on awarding a contract, Maggi said, “I can’t answer that at this point. They’re (the proposals) are still being evaluated. There could be, but I can’t say.”

Debbie Bardella, Washington County recorder of deeds and director of the county’s tax revenue department, also has a deposition in the reassessment case scheduled for the morning of July 12.

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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