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Judge Orders County to Continue with Reassessment

Judge R. Stanton Wettick will decide Thursday which assessment values to use this year.

Allegheny County Judge R. Stanton Wettick smacked down county officials Tuesday by ordering them to continue working on the new property reassessments.

On Tuesday, Wettick said residents who have already received the new assessments must abide by them, despite last week's declaration by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald that the numbers were

According to WPXI, Wettick decided not to hold Fitzgerald in contempt, but said he would hold county officials in contempt if they don't move forward with the reassessment process.

On Thursday, Wettick is scheduled to decide on a request from Pittsburgh City Council to delay using the values for another year, according to WPXI.

“This order is just more evidence of the court overreaching its bounds,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “This is an unelected judge, who is not even standing for retention and chose, instead, to go into senior judge status, who is now acting as the executive and legislative bodies of this county.

“If the court believes that removing the elected officials from this process and requiring county staff to report to him directly will result in my stopping this fight—the court can think again."

Whether Fitzgerald and the county have any legal grounds to stand on is questionable at best. Still he promised they would use any legal response needed to stop the assessment.

“I can assure taxpayers that we are evaluating this order and will continue to explore each and every avenue that is available to fight this Allegheny County-only reassessment.”

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Mike Jones (Editor) January 11, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Fitzgerald must be delusional if he thinks the county isn't going to use an $11 million assessment that's already been completed. Hopefully, Wettick grants a delay, though, because it seems implementing these numbers will take a few months... long after the tax bills are mailed out.
ED January 11, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Maybe the judge can put Fitzgerald in the County Jail for a while. It would kill two birds with one stone. He would be punished and at the same time be able to conduct an assessment of how well the facility is being run.
Roger January 11, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Judge Wettick rendered Fitzgerald a non-player in the discussion. Fitzgerald's only action is a political mouthpiece. Nothing he says has any bearing on the matter. The talk of bridges and roads, as meritorious as the concern might be, is of no importance. Also, the talk about how the problem was foisted on the Country by the school district is a red-herring as well. The issue is a legal one, and one that Judge Wettick enforced. Fitzgerald's path of appeal is the same path in which the order came down. Those courts that made the verdicts that stated what must be done are the same ones who have to hear Fitzgerald's appeal. Since they have already heard the case, and imposed a verdict, why would an appeal have any traction? Despite his words, it appears Fitzgerald has backed himself into a corner. His words may make political hay, but mean nothing with regard to the legal matter on the table. No number of radio interviews will change anything. Perhaps the biggest question is whether or not those charged with implementing the plan will stay aboard, or bail out through resignation. Would it surprise anybody to see the entire lot choose to leave their posts, rather than follow through on Judge Wettick's orders? So much for a fast start out of the blocks in the County Executive's office.
Bill Mills January 12, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Judge Wettick's orders appear to me as being 'legislating from the bench', which no judge has that right. We have three branches of Government - the Executive, Legislative and the Judicial. It is the job of the Legislative branch to create legislation, not the Judicial. Time for the county to tell Wettick where to go. Isn't is odd that while assessments in some properties in lower income areas have increased 200 to 300%, Wettick's property only increased ABOUT 20%. Come on accessors - kick Wettick's assessment 300%, and see how he likes it.
Roger January 12, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Yesterday's report from Pitt finds that 2/3 of Allegheny Co residents will have lower taxes after the new assessments are used. The ones we hear about are those who have had assessments raised, but they don't even know the amount of their taxes. Fitzgerald has used this situation to make a big splash onto the political scene. So far, it has backfired. The reason for the reassessment was equity, something that 99% of the folks want. Bill, is it Judge Wettick's job to enforce the laws in place? Would you think that if Fitzgerald overruled the legal authority the Court would have been rendered useless? This would mean that any further legal cases be handled outside the Court, and at the hands of Fitzgerald. Do you want the protection of the Court system, or a executive branch that chooses to imposed rules and regulations they see fit, apart from legal restraints?
ED January 12, 2012 at 02:13 PM
"Judge Wettick's orders appear to me as being 'legislating from the bench"...I generally reject that concept. As a Common Pleas Court Judge Wettick is a low man on the totem pole. Any of his decisions are subject to appeal and review, but I believe all the legal issues have been pretty much settled. All the County Officials have left is demagoguery.
Bill Mills January 12, 2012 at 06:10 PM
The County Council, as our elected legislative representatives, can and should pass new legislation to adequately meet the needs of property owners, and this legislation, signed into law by the County Executive. If Judge Wettick then tries to over rule this process, then he should be removed from office. As for the 2/3 of property owners having lower taxes - use common sense - will Wettick's 20% assessment or the people wilh 300% increases have lower taxes? Who will hear appeals of Wettick's order - probably Wettick himself and won't that be a joke.

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