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  • Gordon Speaks About County Tax Issues

    Brett Templeton
    Friday, September 2, 2016

    After the Du Quoin Weekly and Pinckneyville Press ran an article on an issue with county property taxes being sold inappropriately, more Perry County citizens have come forward with issues of their own.

    Starr Kroeger Gordon sent a letter to the Weekly/Press detailing her experiences with the county. Gordon said she was sending her letter, “after speaking with Du Quoin Evening Call Editor John Croessman over the phone on July 26, 2016, and giving him factual information, [and] an article was published in the paper on July 27, 2016. The article contained statements with inaccurate information.”

    Gordon said she is a former resident and has been a property owner in Du Quoin for the last two years. Her father was Ernest Robert Kroeger. When he died in 2014, his property in Du Quoin was inherited by Starr, her brother Robert “Bob” Kroeger and sister Stacey Kirchner.

    Gordon said that the 2013 payment on that property, payable in 2014, was “paid to the county, in full, on Aug. 13, 2014.” Gordon said the amount due for the first installment was paid three weeks late, and that the tax bill was mailed with her father’s name on it, but her sister’s address.

    “The mailing name and address on the tax bill was hand-written on a white sticker covering the name and address of my deceased parents. The tax bill shows the owner as my deceased parents. This was received more than one year after my father had died,” Gordon explained.

    In July 2015 Gordon purchased that property from her brother and sister, becoming the sole owner, and the 2014 taxes dues were paid with the sale.

    After that transaction, Gordon received a phone call from her sister saying that she had received a certified letter from the Perry County Treasurer stating that the property Gordon bought had been sold in November 2015 at a tax sale. It showed the property belonging to Gordon and her two siblings, “even though I have been the sole owner since July 2015,” Gordon wrote.

    Gordon contacted County Clerk Josh Gross who told her hundreds of properties had been sold in the tax sale, and that she should speak to Treasurer Mary Jane Craft. Craft then directed Gordon to the

    Assessor’s office to check that she had herself listed as the owner and her mailing address was recorded correctly. Gordon called that office and was told the Assessor’s records showed that she was the owner and her mailing address was correct.

    Gordon called Craft again and asked why she was not notified that a back tax was due. Craft told her that the office sent a certified letter. When Gordon told Craft she had not received a certified letter and asked where it was sent, Craft told her it went to the property address.

    Gordon explained:

    “I asked if the certified letter had been returned. Her response was that it was probably at the Post office. I called the post office in Du Quoin and was told that unclaimed certified letters were returned to sender after two weeks.

    “Josh Gross told me that Ms. Craft had “been told” at the previous Board meeting not to put these hundreds of properties in the tax sale. He also said I should contact the State’s Attorney and County Commissioner Chairman ‘should consider the legal fees as opposed to the amount due including the fine. Mr. Kelly returned my call two days later and told me that Ms. Craft had “been told” at the previous Board meeting not to put the properties with small amount dues in the tax sale. He said he had received “lots” of calls from property owners “screaming and cussing me out.”

    “I spent hours on the phone trying to get this straightened out, with no one accepting responsibility, neither the Treasurer nor Roe Abstract.”

    Following this interaction, Gordon said her sister received two certified letters from the Perry County Treasurer listing Gordon and her siblings as owners of two properties that had been sold at the November 2015 tax sale. Gordon said the siblings were, ”confused upon receipt of these notifications,” because they did not own the properties referenced in the letter. After a visit to Roe Abstract, Gordon’s brother discovered that the properties belonged to his son, whose name was Ernest R. Kroeger, just as their father had been named.

    Gordon said that her brother and sister met with Gross who took them to speak with Perry County Assessor John Batteau. They explained the issues regarding both Gordon’s property and her nephew’s property that had been mistakenly put in their name and sold. When Bateau pulled the card files for both of the homes, Gordon and her brother and sister were listed as the property owners, which was incorrect. Batteau asked the employees in his office who had made the change to Gordon’s nephews property incorrectly, and Alisia stepped forward saying she had. Considering the detail in Gordon’s letter was extensive, the following is an excerpt regarding the transaction:

    “The card files had my sister, my brother & myself listed as the owners for both homes. They again tried to explain to Mr. Batteau that the only property that my sister, my brother & myself had inherited was at 351 Tracy Lane, in Du Quoin. When they asked why the owner of all the properties had been changed upon my father’s death, Mr. Batteau said that he didn’t do it. He then asked the assessor’s office employees who had changed the owners on these properties. Alisia then replied that she had. She came to the counter. My sister asked her why she changed the owner of all the properties. Alisia then produced the affidavit from Roe Abstract that my sister had signed stating that my sister, my bother & myself were the sole heirs to my father’s estate & property. She stated that this was the reason that she had changed the owners of all properties that showed Ernest R Kroeger as the owner. Alisia then waved the affidavit around. When my sister asked why no other identifying information regarding the deceased or the listed property owner was checked, Mr. Batteau said that they would have to have done additional work to identify each property that was listed under a name. My sister asked if John Smith died, would every property listed as owned by John Smith have been changed without any further identification. Alisia repeated numerous times that she changed the owners because of “this piece of paper.” My sister felt threatened enough by Alisia waving the paper towards her face, that she asked if she need to call county. Alisia’s reply was “Where do you think you are?” My sister replied that she knew exactly where she was, that she meant was referring to the county Sherriff’s department. Mr. Battaeu stood by saying nothing. Mr. Gross witnessed all of this interchange with Mr. Batteau & Alisia. My sister & brother then were told that my nephew would have to sign a paper & return to the assessor’s office in order to have his property under his name as owner & his mailing address. They also had to verify my address to have my property corrected.”

    Following the transaction at the Assessor’s office, Gordon’s siblings went to the Treasurer’s office to speak with Craft. There they explained the illegal sale of Gordon’s property, and with the urging of Gross, Craft canceled the sale, blaming the issue on Roe Abstract.

    Gordon’s nephew also had to make a trip to the Assessor’s office to have his property information corrected.

    On July 14 Gordon says she received a property tax statement with her name listed as owner and her address correctly recorded. Her nephew’s issue, however, had still not been fixed. While his name and address were on the tax bill, Gordon and her siblings were still mistakenly listed as the owners.

    Gordon herself made a 250 mile trip to Illinois to have the issue regarding her nephew’s property corrected. After spending some time in the Assessor’s office, Gordon said an employee named Lacy made sure her issue was corrected, and she then made her way to the Treasurer’s office.

    Gordon’s experience in the Treasurer’s office went accordingly:

    “ I then stopped at the Treasurer’s office to pay my taxes. After I received my receipt, I ask the employee who came to the counter if Ms. Craft was available. She told me that she was not in the office today. I then said to her “Perhaps you can answer a question for me.” She said she would try. I asked her” “What in the hell is wrong with her?”, meaning Ms. Craft. I told her that I had been told that Ms. Craft had been told at the Board meeting not to put these properties in a tax sale. The employee told me that she understood that Ms. Craft has “been told not to do it again.” I realized there was a man waiting behind me to pay his property taxes. He said “This office doesn’t give a shit about anyone. You will have to go before the Board, if they will do anything.””

    Following her experiences, Gordon went to Facebook to create a group for anyone who had experienced “problems” with the county. Gordon said the post has been shared 155 times and her group now has nearly 100 members.

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