Sunday, September 13, 2009

County: Dog Ate Our Copy Of The Constitution. Wettick: Tough. My Office, Monday Morning.

I don't know enough about physics to understand how any matter -- let alone one of the most important elements of matter in Allegheny County -- could inhabit a Null Space, but that is precisely what appears to be occurring here: Judge R. Stanton Wettick (right) has vividly signaled the exhaustion of his tolerance for Allegheny County's rope-a-dope tactics regarding unconstitutionally unfair property taxation.

As lawyers seeking overdue relief for the county's long-abused taxpayers requested a hearing and expedited discovery, county solicitor Mike Wojcik responded by letter to Judge Wettick's invitation to attend a hearing to discuss compliance with a Wettick-ordered (and state Supreme Court-affirmed) reassessment requirement, informing the court that the county deemed the court-appointed hearing date inconvenient.

Judge Wettick responded, by terse scrawl on Wojcik's letter, concisely and forcefully: The hearing is to be conducted as scheduled, with sheriff's deputies no doubt standing by to assist any county representative who requires assistance in finding the way to Judge Wettick's courtroom at the appointed hour.

Among the attending county representatives might be new (but, until now, unnoticed) Chief Assessment Officer Edward Schoenenberger, who interviewed for the position in September 2008 and now occupies the office (largely in absentia, according to Mr. Wojcik). (I use "might" because Mr.Schoenenberger reportedly quit as assessor in Harlan, Iowa, in 2006 "after six weeks on the job, citing a 'hostile environment' in the courthouse.")

A sidebar to this story is the obvious decline of conditions at the Post-Gazette. I have already documented the lack of a Google-compatible Intertubes apparatus (right) in the P-G newsroom (and even proposed a solution). Now, it appears, the situation is so dire that no one at the Post-Gazette can spare the energy or shoe leather needed to walk from Allies-at-Commonwealth to the City-County Building, at which location court dockets (such as this one) are available for inspection without charge and without need of any technological device more advanced than a pair of bifocals.

Unless the ossified and ineffectual local power structure Allegheny Conference intends to being relying exclusively on Bill Flanagan as its mouthpiece, it should consider sending hardtack-and-jerky rations to the P-G editorial page editors immediately.

I expect Judge Wettick to conduct a blunt and consequential proceeding on September 14 (illustrations of why Judge Wettick and the plaintiffs are likely to press the county to begin to act lawfully without delay are here and here); I do not necessarily expect to read about it in the Post-Gazette, but perhaps The Comet or Null Space will cover it.

UPDATE: Wagering lines on 'county in contempt' likely to be adjusted soon (Propositions Board, far right column); if you like a currently posted line, bet now (using the 'comment' function).

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