Weatherford Democrat

Local News

July 27, 2011

Homeowners file suit

Judge rules out district court for tax suit involving Aledo, Willow Park residents

WEATHERFORD — Judge Trey Loftin has granted a plea to the jurisdiction on behalf of local taxing entities, ruling that the 43rd District Court has no authority to hear a case involving Aledo and Willow Park homeowners claiming an illegal assessment of back taxes.

The case is a counterclaim to a lawsuit first filed in March by the City of Willow Park to collect delinquent taxes from Todd Brennan and Valerie Smith.

The counterclaim has been leveled by attorney Josh Carden on behalf of the owners of 13 properties against the cities of Willow Park and Aledo, the Parker County Appraisal District, the Parker County Appraisal Review Board and Chief Appraiser Larry Hammonds.

Loftin’s ruling has stymied efforts to expand the case to a class-action lawsuit that could represent hundreds of residents of Willow Park Village, Stone Bluff of Aledo and Fairview Addition, who were told — in 2008 ­— to pay about $300,000 in back taxes for the tax years dating from 2003 to 2007.

“All the counterclaims we’ve filed are dismissed,” Carden said, “but the good news is ... [the ruling] will accelerate the case; it is an accelerated appeal.”

Carden said he will go before the 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth and, if necessary, the Supreme Court of Texas.

Fort Worth attorney Barbara Williams, representing the cities of Aledo and Willow Park along with Fort Worth firm Taylor, Olson, Adkins, Sralla & Elam, L.L.P., said that most of the residents have already paid their taxes.

She said she expected Loftin’s ruling, which she views as a victory, but said there would have been an appeal either way.

“There is a Supreme Court case on point,” she said, “that says if a taxpayer does not utilize the administrative procedures detailed in the Tax Code there is no jurisdiction.”

Loftin’s ruling fell in line with that 2006 case, Williams said, similar because taxpayers did not follow tax code procedures, which call for first lodging a protest with the Appraisal Review Board.

“They should have gone to the ARB, then filed suit in district court,” she said. “Instead, they waited until we filed suit, then used it as a defense to our suit to collect the delinquent tax.”

One of Carden’s claims is that Larry Hammonds, in his role as tax assessor/collector for the cities, didn’t operate within the bounds of the Texas Tax Code when he mailed tax bills to residents before going to the ARB.

Hammonds is being represented by Austin attorney Judith Hargrove, along with the appraisal district and appraisal review board.

“Hammonds had no authority to take that action,” Carden said. “Those were not taxes ... they were pieces of paper.”

“As a result there are cases that say that the assessor/collector is not subject to the ARB, not reviewable,” Carden said, “so the district courts have default.”

“I believe that Judge Loftin has jurisdiction because this case falls outside the regulatory framework of the tax code ­— which is normally dealt with by the Appraisal Review Board,” he said.

Williams disagrees.

“I think Mr. Hammond’s actions are totally within the bounds of the tax code,” she said. “I think he’s representing it to the letter.”

In addition to calling Hammond’s actions into account, the lawsuit alleges that the cities were not valid taxing units from 2003 to 2007 because they didn’t notify the appraisal district that their boundaries had expanded to include the three subdivisions.

It notes that the homeowners did receive and pay tax bills from the Aledo ISD and Parker County during the same time period.

Neither Carden nor Williams were willing to predict when the conflict would be resolved.

The taxing entities may view Loftin’s ruling as a victory “at this level,” Carden said, “but right now, they have won one battle in the struggle.”

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Event center hosts barn-raising

    Many businesses boast old-fashioned country charm, but one Weatherford event center is bringing back old farm traditions to assemble the newest addition to its property: a 19th century barn. 

    April 18, 2014

  • David May named Mineral Wells Index general manager-editor

    Weatherford Democrat Editor David May has been named general manager-editor for the Mineral Wells Index.

    April 18, 2014

  • Pair charged with assaulting kids

    Two Weatherford teens were arrested last week on charges of chasing down two bicycle-riding children in a car and assaulting them in a church parking lot, where the encounter was recorded.

    April 17, 2014

  • easter basket.jpg Easter egg hunt times, locations

    Following is information provided to the WD on four local Easter egg hunts and celebrations planned for Friday and Saturday:

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 2014 ACSI High School District Art Show Winners.jpg Weatherford Christian announces ACSI Art Show winners

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • Larue, Jeffrey.jpg Wanted sex offender found in Weatherford

    A sex offender reportedly sought by Hood County authorities after failing to register as required was found in a Weatherford hotel last week, police say, after exposing himself to an employee.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0415 loc WC choir.jpg WC choir presents the works of Eric Whitacre

     The Weatherford College Choir will showcase the music of composer Eric Whitacre on Tuesday, April 29. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Alkek Fine Arts Center. Doors open at 7 p.m., and the show is free.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Greenwood Horse Trials to begin May 2

    The annual Greenwood Farm, Inc. International Horse Trials kick off Friday, May 2.

     

    April 16, 2014

  • Bob Tallman Speaking at Chapel.jpg Tallman speaks at WCS chapel

    World renowned Rodeo Announcer Bob Tallman, better known as the “Voice of Professional Rodeo,” stopped by Weatherford Christian School’s elementary campus april 10 to speak to over 150 students in grades Pre-K through 6th at their bi-weekly chapel. 

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • Hitting the trail for MS

    STEPHENVILLE – The Cowboy Capital MS Trail Ride is a fun-filled event dedicated to raising funds that support national research into the cause and cure for Multiple Sclerosis as well as provide programs to more than 9,000 people in the Lone Star Chapter area whose lives are touched by MS.

    April 16, 2014

Must Read
Top News
House Ads
AP Video