December 2, 2019
Misspending the tax claim money worse
than previously thought
RANTS that the misspending really was worse than we thought.
another $2.5M of the total $5M or so taken in at county property tax sales was
never deposited into that designated tax claim account, there was no mention
that $600,000 was transferred in an annual 2018 budget line item.
The annual county budget line item funding in 2018 put $600,000 in the tax claim
account, raising the amount properly accounted for from $1,900,000, to $2.5M.
Commissioners Vince Vicites and Dave Lohr, otherwise, never acted to repay the
county tax claim account in 2016, 2017 and nothing in 2019 until signing off on a
$366,000 reimbursement total to school districts last month from 2011 real estate
tax sale funds.
The 2018 budget line item funding a deposit into the county tax claim fund did not
precede a distribution of funds, as one might think might happen next.
The $1,900,000 or so primarily in there since the last mailing of checks and
distribution in 2015 then grew to $2.5M with the $600,000 budget line funding in
2018 and subsequent tax sale revenue, taken in during September sales.
So with the addition of that 2018 budget line item funding of $600,000, technically,
the amount of money never properly deposited by 2018 or misspent was more
like $3,100,000, not $2.5M as previously said.
No movement was made for distributing 2011 Upset & Free Clear so in
September-October, 2017, a former county commissioner said that she
communicated in writing again to school districts and municipalities.
"Lohr and Vicites said no distribution was to happen until the Controllers Office
completed its audit. The Controllers office completed an audit for period 2010-
2011 in August, 2018," a former commissioner wrote in a summary for the media
a few months ago.
"In August, 2018, six days after the Controllers office submitted its findings, two
commissioners signed an agreement with Zelenkofske Axelrod to do an audit for
the year 2017. The cost to do the audit states $13,000-$17,000, and the purpose is
to determine how much the general fund owes to the tax sale fund for year
2017," the former commissioner wrote.
RANTS that Vicites and Lohr wasted two years waiting for an audit, paying such a
high price for an audit, too.
A sum of $1.7M was determined late last spring to have been the amount that
needed to be repaid to the tax claim fund. That amount was discussed prior to
the September county property tax claim sales, so the amount at this time may
That the two commissioners wasted the second year and nearly $18,000 getting a
second audit to repeat what the county controller's office said is concerning. Why
did they think the controller's audit was wrong?
Or were they simply stalling for time -- say, after the Primary Election -- for the
worst of the tax claim distribution information to be more publicly known?
Vicites and Lohr owe the public an explanation as to how they exceeded their
budgets each year in office and misspent county tax claim sale proceeds meant
for reimbursements to meet courthouse expenses.
They way over-spent their budgets and misspent an additional $600,000 that
wasn't included in the June figures, masquerading as serious business men
unaware they're losing their shirts. (2 Dec 19)
December 1, 2019
County Code, state statutes don't cite for
decade long delays
RAVES, for the sake of Fayette County, that it does not appear to be against the law to
keep all proceeds for a decade from county property tax sales, instead of doing county
property title searches and getting reimbursements in a more timely period of deducted
tax payments to school districts, municipalities, creditors or persons previously owning
the sold property.
While some sections of the County Code and different state task force updates on real
estate upset sales legislation "admonishes the counties to henceforth conduct their duties
as a trustee of any property held under this section, in a manner which complies with all
fiduciary duties imposed upon them by law," there appears nothing in written law to
protect the rights of those whose properties were legally forfeited for sheriff and county
sale, to have reimbursements be held without interest, for a decade from the tax claim
office or county.
Normal turn around for reimbursements should be 12 to 18 months, as per county
officials. Fay gave out one distribution in 2015, but otherwise hadn't conducted no other
distribution except for the one in October for $366K.
Nobody should be particularly proud of the fact that about half of the $5.5M taken in in
county property tax sales made it to the tax claim account for reimbursements and about
$2.5M did not get deposited.
Regardless of the facts that Fay was entitled to keep five-percent handling fees, to
deduct costs and timely send mandates notices to property owners along the way leading
to evictions, forfeitures, sales, property searches and processing, nothing in the County
Code and nothing state-issued, in the opinion supplement to the property sale law, says
it's O.K. for county commissioners to ignore the proceeds for a decade and misuse the
misappropriated funds as general fund monies for day-to-day courthouse operation
State lawmakers probably never imagined county property tax claim sale monies would
take a decade or longer for reimbursements to be deducted from proceeds and costs and
issued in a timely manner.
That about $2.5M funds appear to have been spent as general fund monies and not
available to be used for reimbursements for back-logged years should be of more
concern to more people.
Nobody believes the county has the funds to write all those checks tomorrow, so it would
be humbling if county officials stopped pretending all the money is and has been free or
available for reimbursements.
Six months ago county commissioners and a solicitor told radio audiences that all the
money was there and that about $1.75M of it at the time was actually due for
If all the money -- the entire $1.75M in money owed -- had been there in June, and four
years of distributions were "squared away" as county commissioners and a solicitor told
us at the time, why has only $366K been distributed since 2015?
Why did, then we must ask, Commissioners Vince Vicites and Dave Lohr fail to fund
repayment of the tax claim fund from the general fund when they reopened the 2016
budget? When they prepared the 2017, 2019 and 2020 budgets?
Only the 2018 budget contained a line item for transfer to the tax claim office.
Why is it O.K. for them to move around money to misspend on other things to pad the
general fund budget, but a formal enough cause on one sole occasion to target funds
specifically for a 2018 budget line item?
Why was it O.K. to withhold a 2017 audit for over a year from a former county
commissioner and withhold certain documents a school board director requested under
Right To Know to examine business records of the tax claim account?
To get reimbursements moving or the issue addressed should not have taken action from
a former county commissioner or a current school district board member.
It's easy for anonymous clods to criticize a former commissioner for "over exaggerating"
and call the school board member sifting through hundreds of pages of papers a chump
out to make a political name for himself.
It's sickening that some snicker and insist the worst practice is O.K. because it's not
illegal to pad the county general fund with $2.5M of money meant for county property tax
claim reimbursements, some over due up to a decade.
State law doesn't require the county to move promptly or within the 12-to-18 month
turnaround time, so county commissioners may just keep on trying to reassure their
supporters that all the money due in reimbursements is sitting in an account ready for
They said six months ago that four distribution years were ready to go. Only one
distribution for the year of 2011 was since made, in October, for $366K to school districts.
It's not illegal to withhold reimbursements like this in the county's fiduciary role of guardian
of those funds. Maybe not, the way some laugh over this.
But to sit on a couple million dollars that really isn't yours, and to misspend some or all of
it, all is shamefully unethical and immoral.
Anyone snickering should know better.
November 29, 2019
Raymond continues delve into
tax claims account
RAVES that Laurel Highlands School Board member Randy Raymond said that he will
continue to delve into the business records of Fayette County's property sale tax claim
proceeds, ledgers and transfers, in spite of assurance from county officials and finance
contractor this week that school districts, creditors and municipalities will get all the
money due them.
Six months ago, Fayette County Commissioners Vince Vicites and Dave Lohr told AM
radio audiences that the county's backlog on issuing reimbursements from the years 2010
was moving along slowly but well.
Vicites, Lohr and solicitor Tim Witt said in June that reimbursements for the years 2011,
2012 and 2013 had been "prepared and squared away."
To date, however, only 2011's reimbursement checks totalling $366K, were mailed or
distributed last month. Court orders which were generated recently also listed the year as
2009 on one planned future distribution, when the year 2009 was previously thought to
have been processed.
Additionally, Vicites and Lohr told radio listeners five months ago that they were focusing
next on the years 2017 and 2018, skipping years next in order, 2015 and 2016, till last.
No explanation, of course, was given, except that the duo want to make it appear that
they didn't sit on the nest egg during their time in office.
For Vicites, however, the practice of tying up and using tax claim funds meant for
reimbursements to school districts instead to pad the daily operations or general fund
budget at the county courthouse is documented as far back as 2004 in this article in the
Raymond, however, was unaffected by this week's contention from the county that the tax
claim mess is under control.
"I’ll keep going till we get our money and are all caught up with a 12 to 18 month lag time,"
Raymond told Rants&Raves this morning.
RAVES to him for not buying the notion that the county has enough funds on hand to
reimburse all years.
November 26, 2019
Fay's fiscal guru Lynch finds +$1M... but
RANTS that the thinking public today shook its collective head reading on heraldstandard.
com about Randy Raymond's mind boggling mission to get to the bottom of the couple of
millions of dollars taken in during county property tax sales and never deposited into the
tax claim account.
In the story, "Fayette County officials offer assurances about long overdue tax sale
distributions," the following sentence brought some across town to the brink of spitting
coffee choking, before the head shaking supposedly started. Please read it twice:
believes there will be enough in the tax claim sales fund to cover taxing
bodies without the county having to dip into the general fund
While there is a chance that the paper wrote the above quote wrong, Rants&Raves so
Lynch then must really have said there is enough tax sales fund to pay out owed
distributions without having to dip into the general fund going forward.
Think Lynch realized what he said wrong?
The problem, of course, is that officials have authorized the county's general fund for at
least 15 known years to spend millions of the tax claim account dollars to cover day to
day, general fund county expenses.
Why did Lynch get it backwards?
RAVES, indeed, if there is $3,860,572 that Lynch said was in the tax claim fund this
Here's why that seems wrong -- or at least must appear to be wrong, based entirely on
poorly to non-existent documentation of "loans" that a reckless majority of county
commissioners in private have authorized, for at least 11 of the past 15 years.
For starters, Raymond said, "he's wrong," when asked what he thought of Lynch's dollar
quote in the paper today, said to be sitting in the county's tax claim account.
Then there are the facts.
The distribution last month was the first distribution since 2015, and totaled $366K in tax
reimbursements, said to have come from 2011 property tax sales.
Five months ago, while discussing on talk radio the 2011 tax claim distribution and saying
another three years reimbursements were ready to go, two commissioners and solicitor
referred to 2011 as "a big tax year."
In June, five months ago, there was only $2.5M in the tax claim account. The rest of the
$5.2M taken in stayed in the general fund, or at least most of it, was never deposited into
the tax claim account from the general fund.
The three men on the radio last June seemed to agree that the amount of money owed
the tax claim account was about $1.75M, not the $2.5 heard earlier.
Nonetheless, since that June radio airing, some $230K in new revenue was taken in
during a tax sale in September, and $366K in payments last month were mailed out,
drawn on or deducted from the tax claim fund account.
It is unknown what revenue was taken in during a second or free and clear sale was.
But since 2011 was described as "a big tax year" on the radio six months ago, it should
be safe to assume the total, including the county's commission or fee earned and end of
year sales totals, will be less for 2019's sales than it was in 2011.
Lynch's figures don't add up, in other words, unless Fay took in a record breaking
$3,724,572 in revenue and profit, in one single free and clear tax sale two months ago.
What are the chances in hell that that happened?
RANTS because two commissioners and the million-dollar paid contracted fiscal guru
tried so shamelessly, but miserably failed to make Raymond appear to be the chump, for
looking into this tax claim matter. The thinking public sees through the spin.
It's unfortunate that the solicitor, described as a professional with integrity, has to help
explain or minimize the impact of the undocumented, backdoor practice using county tax
claim money as general fund cash, for at least 15 years, during terms in office authorized
by a majority with Commissioner Vince Vicites.
No wonder they hid things from Zimmerlink, huh? (26 Nov 19)
comments on property tax claim mess, wondering what happens
if Munchinski settlement also comes due
authorized the $600,000 loan from the domestic relations office. Zimmerlink said
she’s found no documentation approving the $500,000 borrowed from the tax
claim office. Vicites said state approval isn’t necessary because the tax claim
office is a county office. Domestic relations receives a portion of its funding from
the state. "
Zimmerlink," which discussed how common the practice in Vicites'
administrations has been for at least the past 15 years, to borrow from the county
tax claim funds to cover county cash flow problems and expenses and not have
the loans documented
"So the two Slick Dick commissioners now say they must budget for the
retirement account, buy the voting machines, pay for a new jail and pay for all
operating costs. That's their job!
"It is terrible not to believe a word officials say. From the looks of it, it shouldn't
be too much longer till the county has to pay up for David Munchinski's civil
judgement (prosecutorial misconduct of Gerald Solomon and Ralph Warman)
from the general fund, too. If the county has been socking away some money for
that, as we were led to believe they were since 2015, I wouldn't hold my breath
that they didn't bleed it dry, too!"
Munchinski civil case that leaves the county completely financially liable for
any settlement since the county had no liability insurance in the 1980s when he
was tried and evidence was withheld that overturned his conviction 27 years later
and freed him from prison
Revisiting Vicites' June, 2019 comments
on property tax claim mess
RANTS that Fayette County's fiscal books are such a nightmare piece of work, and that
reimbursements for only one of three back years that Fayette County Commissioner
Vince Vicites told radio listeners five months ago "was ready to go" has been distributed.
Back in June, Vicites, heard at the radio link below, said that reimbursements from the
county to school districts for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013 were "prepared and squared
Vicites also told radio listeners, when asked if the $1-3M taken in in sales not deposited
into the tax claim account was there, that he knew "for a fact" that funds were there for
four such rounds of reimbursements before he handed the microphone over to his
To date, in spite of how well along the tax claim reimbursements were said to be going,
only one distribution totalling $366K was made last month from the county property tax
claim sales to school districts owed taxes, from what was said to be the year 2011 -- only
court orders later issued for another reimbursement in the works stated the
reimbursement funds would be pulled from year 2009, when that year was presumed to
be already reimbursed.
So much for having faith in the words of public officials, right?
To add more confusion, Laurel Highlands School Board member Randy Raymond
checked in today with Rants&Raves to report that a transfer in 2018 was made from the
county general fund to the tax claim fund for "about $600,000."
A total of only half of the $5.5M taken in at property tax claim sales was properly
deposited into the county tax claim office's account from the county general fund. About
$2.5M was in the account when this matter became a significant public concern last
RAVES that someone like Raymond got Right To Know documents to try to sift through
the mess. RANTS, however, that Raymond said that he "still has not received full
documentation of the account" as he requested.
That plain sucks. (24 Nov 19)
"Quotes Of The Day" wondering if the new commish will even sign
a 2020 county budget that ignores, fails, perhaps even criminally, to repay and reconcile $1-
3M debt of the county general fund in deposits owed to the property tax claim sales fund
budget that shows the county might be illegally misusing or hiding $2.5 million
cappuccinos, smuggled in from the Rt. 119 Speedway
claims isn't noted somewhere in there (the proposed budget), the other two still will
approve it, people will say he's the new Zimmerlink abstaining and the other two will
start hiding everything from him, too."
free cappuccino, still unbelievably hot 25 minutes after being poured at the Rt. 119
Speedway, adding that if they start hiding letters and business from him, that would
seem only to strengthen a possible criminal intent on their part, to knowingly want
to keep the $2.5 million dollars never deposited properly as off the books interest-
free loans to cover their expenses and their conscious choice to stop distributions
of the tax claim funds for four years, till this first one for $366K last month
downtown, I guess."
"Quotes Of The
Day" worth reading twice
in your sleep!"
commissioner, as per a most
reputable source, who reported that
Zimmerlink, at an October budget
planning meeting made the
comment to Sam Lynch, contracted
county fiscal guru, paid about $1M
since 2016 to prepare Fay's budgets,
concerning a shocking $1.1M
renovation project to the
commissioners' office that someone,
without Zimmerlink's knowledge,
apparently planned and still may be
hundred pages of ledger for the tax
school board member, telling
Rants&Raves yesterday that he has
"lots of questions" on the $1-3M
missing and likely misspent funds
never transferred from the county
general fund after property tax claim
sales to the proper account for
reimbursements to school districts,
as his district and Albert Gallatin
school districts are poised to sue
Fay for the remainder of funds long-
owed them and Raymond spends a
considerable amount of time trying
to make sense out of the many Right
To Know documents he received
about the county property tax sale
County tax claim
With legal letters already sent to the
county wanting prompt repayment of all
monies owed to the school districts from
decade-long waits for property tax sale
reimbursements, the Laurel Highlands
and Albert Gallatin districts, so far,
remain the only two poised to sue the
county, if needed, to receive the rest of
Why don't more school districts seem to
mind waiting for what might be Hell
freezing over, to receive
reimbursements from 2009 through the
current time property tax sales, to be
made? Brownsville, Frazier and
Uniontown School Districts don't need
While over $5M was taken in during
property tax sales over those years,
only about half of the sum was properly
transferred from the county general fund
over to the tax claim account for
reimbursements. To date, only $366K
has been reimbursed.
The rest of the missing funds was
misspent on general fund expenses.
Nobody but a few people are troubled
by this fact? The state attorney and
auditor generals don't seem to care, or
at least have pretended not to care prior
to the general election.
For a quick overview of the situation,
please click and read a June letter
to the editor from a former county
Except for $366 in reimbursements
mailed last month, and the couple
hundred thousand in new revenue from
September 2019 sales after the letter
was published, nothing else about the
scandalous situation, pathetically, has
changed... well, except for more
concerning news that the 2009
reimbursements were not made as well
in past years. (18 Nov 19)
District poised to
sue Fay over
owed tax claim
RANTS that the solicitor for the Albert
Gallatin School District wrote this letter
of intent for the district to sue
the County of Fayette if those long
overdue reimbursement checks do not
continue to come their way pronto from
the county tax claim.
Bigger RANTS, too, that we're hearing
that the court documents state that a
next round of reimbursements will come
from funds from another earlier year,
2009, never previously mentioned in
past county disclosures of the property
tax sale mess.
To date, the two newly re-elected
county commissioners and officials said
the reimbursements were owed from
2011 on to the present time. That tax
claims refunds were owed to districts
from 2009 never was disclosed.
RANTS that two commissioners
promote themselves as professional
businessmen running a business, when,
in a New York minute, both would be
terminated from private sector
employment for such a sloppy
performance. Imagine if you misspent
$2-3M of your boss' money during lean
times when creditors are knocking for
urged to check in at
Zimmerlink's Blog to view the
court order to allow a 2009
reimbursement to be prepared
and other surprises... RAVES
that the departing commissioner
who did not seek re-election
still gives a rat's ass about Fay.
(11 Nov 19)
As $1.1M renovation, redecoration of
commish office is planned
About that $1-3M
RAVES that someone outside of the
county courthouse is actively pursuing
tracking down the $1-3M of the monies
taken in at county property tax claim
sales, deposited over the years into the
county general fund, apparently
misused for general fund expenses, and
never deposited, as the sums should
have been, into the tax claim account for
reimbursements to school districts and
While we haven't heard much about the
missing $1-3M in tax claim funds for a
few months from incumbent
commissioners who wanted the subject
buried during their re-election
campaigns and heard no noise about
the missing $1-3M from any of the
challengers campaigning against them,
RAVES that Laurel Highlands School
Board Member Randy Raymond has not
forgotten the missing funds.
Not only that, but Raymond this week
on social media proposed that entities
owed reimbursements for too many
years receive interest on the sums and
also questioned why bidding at property
sales doesn't start at a higher amount to
cover all tax monies owed, not just the
He used as example a $51K property
with about $6K owed in county, school
and local taxes, with a starting bid of
$317, and sold at tax claim sale for a
mere $1,000. Please check out his
social media page for more information.
RANTS that outside Raymond's district,
a different Fay school district put the
county on notice that it intends to sue
the county for the long over-due
reimbursements it is owed. Didn't know
Please ask your local newspapers why
not. (10 Nov 19)
They really forgot? Or just didn't
want commish, public there?
Fay forgot to
RANTS that county officials have
been meeting in private for budget
meetings that by law were required
to begin 90 days before a next
year's budget is to be implemented.
Day" on election
blues, Slick Dicks that
screw duped public
"I can't vote for Vicites and Lohr
because they paid $17,000 for a tax
claim financial report that they didn't
get or got and hid from the public
and a third commissioner."
reading a statement
Zimmerlink prepared on
her blog today about her
many, many attempts in two
years to receive a copy of the
"So should everyone request a copy
under Right To Know? Report it to
the auditor general? The attorney
general? Call Vicites and Lohr and
ask for a copy? Call them to ask why
they paid for a report or how many
days after the fifth of November
they plan on releasing it or raising
answering her own questions
by saying all are good options
"My generation called sneaky
people like that Slick Dicks."
not a vulgar term and that she'll
vote for Democrat challenger,
Kevin Jones, and will write in a
$366K in 2011 Fay
RAVES of the sort of miraculous
kind that checks for a few hundred
thousand dollars in long-owed
reimbursements to school districts
were in the mail recently, from the
county tax claim office.
But RANTS that we do not know
where that $366K in
reimbursements came from, given
that earlier this year we learned that
exorbitant sums, up to $2-3 Million in
dollars from property tax sales,
were never transferred from the
general fund to the tax claim
account and, possibly, misspent as
county general funds.
RANTS, for instance, that we do not
know if this $366K in reimbursement
checks mailed out came, in part
from $231,609.68 new money taken
in during property tax sale in June
and the second new sum that came
in during a September property tax
sale, or if this $366K is part of the $2-
3 million never deposited into the
tax claim account and too likely
misspent in the county's general
Almost as importantly, then, the
more difficult question, no doubt:
when will the next round of tax
claim reimbursement checks be
distributed? We hear county bookies
have already stopped taking bets for
the last half of October of 2020. (22