Commissioner Troy and the Board of Revisions…..makes one say “Hmmmm”

Updated: 9/30/18 1:16 pm

We were made aware of another issue dealing with Commissioner Dan Troy that interested us enough to spend our time doing some research so that we could inform Lake County taxpayers. Rather than being judgmental, we decided to lay out the facts, and let the taxpayers make the final decision – give Troy’s management decision a “thumbs up or down” based on the facts.

The issue at hand deals with the decision that Commissioner Troy made in hiring a Ms. Carol M Sicilliano as his primary alternate representative, a paid position, for the Lake County Board of Revisions.   Troy has been on the Board of Revisions for many years and has designated Ms. Sicilliano as his primary alternate each year.  Here is  Commissioner Troy’s letter, dated February 5, 2018, to the Auditor, Ed Zupancic, informing him that Ms. Sicilliano will be his primary alternate representative on the Board of Revision for 2018.
Troy’s Letter to Board of Revision

Why would that be a problem?   Well, the State of Ohio Ethics Commission has restrictions on nepotism or hiring family members.  Restrictions on nepotism or hiring family members

We confirmed that payments were made to Ms. Sicilliano.  Here is a schedule of the payments:
Payments to CS

We again reached out to Commissioner Troy to obtain his position on this whole matter.  Here are the questions that we asked him:

*********************
Commissioner Troy:
The purpose of this email is to hear your side of the story on an issue that has been presented to us.  Before we publish anything, we try to ensure that we have all of the facts.

What are the details behind the appointment of Carol M. Sicilliano as your primary alternate representative for the residential, industrial, and commercial property valuation appeals that will be before the Board of Revisions for 2018?
a. Why is she qualified for the position?
b. Does she have any relationship to you?
c. Is the primary alternative representative the only paid position on the Board of Revisions?
d. Would you agree that a Commissioner must avoid, at all costs, even the perception of any impropriety while in office?
*********************

Here is Commissioner  Troy’s response to our questions: (“Bold” emphasis is LFC)

” Mister Massie, 
 In response to your recent email:
The Board of Revision is defined in Chapter 57 of the Ohio Revised Code, and it 
 is a department within and overseen by the County Auditor’s office and not the Board of Commissioners.

Every year in early January the Board of Revision has an organizational meeting in the County Auditor’s office.   At that meeting, we elect a chairperson (usually the Auditor), are updated on any statutory changes regarding the tax appeals process, and then approve the operating rules for that calendar year.

The Auditor and his staff will provide a forecast of the workload for that year in terms of the volume of anticipated appeals, and indicate that hearings will be held on an intermittent schedule of days over several weeks and months to address that workload. We are instructed to name alternates that are knowledgeable, available, and, most importantly, dependable to conduct and process these hearings. At least two alternates are named by each member, and often more than that if a heavy workload is anticipated.

These individuals are only compensated for the hours that they work and they receive no  employee benefits, as their hours per week are so limited to prevent that obligation. This is not true in many counties where these positions are full time with the contingent benefits.

You’ve made certain inquiries regarding one of my designated alternates. In terms of her qualifications for the position, she had previously  done occasional work for the Probate Court under Judge Klammer to informally assess values of properties for the administration of estates. She and the other alternates go through training every year by the County Prosecutor’s office. According to the County Auditor, the Director and staff of the Board of Revision office, and the assistant Prosecutors that advise the Board, she has been an excellent asset to the operation based on knowledge, experience and dependability in a position that is very seasonal in nature. They have told me that she always shows up early, and often stays late, and is never compensated for that extra effort. The fact that so few decisions, if any, of the Lake County BOR have been challenged or overturned by the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals in the past few years certainly attests to the stellar performance of this Board. 
 
As far as your question regarding relationships, she is a long time personal friend whom I know and trust to always work hard and do the right thing.

All of the alternates that serve by designation of the 3 statutory members (Auditor, Treasurer and one Commissioner) are compensated, but only for the hours that they work, and I believe that has been the case for many decades. I also know that the hourly rate at which they are compensated has not been adjusted for as long as anyone can remember. Also, the work of the Board of Revision in Lake County has been concluded for 2018, so their business is complete.”
********************

This particular issue revolves around the relationship between Commissioner Troy and Ms. Sicilliano.   The Ohio Revised Code section 102 deals with this subject.  In addition to the document “Restrictions Nepotism or Hiring  Family Members” mentioned above, we did find an opinion (#2010-03) rendered by Ben Rose, Chairman of the Ohio Ethics Commission that clarified what construed a “Member of the Family”.
Opinion No. 20110-03

In order to obtain additional clarification on what the State of Ohio considers a “family” in today’s world, we called the Ohio Ethics Commission, and spoke to “Mark”.  He stated that if they are “cohabiting” a residence and both share in the cost of maintaining the home, then a complaint could be filed with the Ohio Ethics Board.

Commissioner Troy states that Ms. Sicilliano is a long time friend.  We have found on-line documentation that Ms. Sicilliano has been described as Troy’s “companion”.

As we said at the beginning of this article, we will not be judgmental on this issue.  We will assume that the Lake County taxpayers that know both parties will know the truth about the relationship, and will give Commissioner Troy a “thumbs up or down” on his management decisions.

We contend that the three Commissioners, in addition to the other Lake County elected or appointed officials,  should avoid at all costs any hint or perception of impropriety while executing the duties of their office.

 

 

 



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