A judge's decision on Allegheny County's worried-over property reassessments won't come until Thursday. But at least county exec Rich Fitzgerald doesn't have to worry about going to the klink -- Judge Wettick told assessors and county offiicials to basically ignore the exec's orders and proceed with the revaluations.
He asked the court to delay using the numbers until next year so most of the appeals from residents on the new values could be heard and decided.
In a related matter, Judge Wettick declined to hold county Executive Rich Fitzgerald in contempt of court for telling residents they should ignore the new assessment numbers, but he ordered the process to continue.
Attorneys for residents who filed the lawsuit that led to the reassessment asked the judge last week to hold Mr. Fitzgerald in contempt for declaring the new assessment figures "null and void" and telling Pittsburgh and Mount Oliver to use 2002 assessment figures. Mr. Fitzgerald, a Democrat who took office last week, is against reassessment for Allegheny County because neighboring counties haven't issued new property values for decades.
In his order today, the judge ordered county manager Jim Flynn and other county officials to continue carrying out his assessment orders or face contempt charges. New figures for the rest of the county should be released in the next few months.
UPDATE 5:40PM Fitz has released a typically fiesty statement, saying 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."
It's in full after the jump:
PITTSBURGH – County Executive Rich Fitzgerald released the following statement regarding the court order issued this afternoon on the reassessment of real property in Allegheny County:
“This order is just more evidence of the Court overreaching its bounds,” said Fitzgerald. “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.”
At the 2 p.m. hearing, the Court ordered that “…the County Manager shall fully, efficiently, and promptly implement existing and future court orders issued by this Court regarding the reassessment of real property within Allegheny County.” Additionally, according to the order, the Chief Assessment Officer, the Director of the Department of Administrative Services and the Manager of the Office of Property Assessments are not to engage in or cause any actions that are inconsistent with the completion of the reassessment. Noncompliance may result in contempt of court for those officials and they may not use as a defense that they were given instructions by any Allegheny County official.
“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. I was elected, as was County Council, to make policy and legislative decisions for this county. I took an oath to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth, not go around them as the Court is dictating that the staff to do, by pushing forward with this reassessment.
“I can assure tax payers 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.”