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Hearing officer who criticized Brasher reassessments is fired, town officials speak out

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 5:38 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Brasher town officials are contesting claims they rigged reassessments. And 7 News has learned the state hearing officer making those allegations is no longer on the job.

Resident Glen Perry took his reassessment grievance before a state hearing officer and won. That hearing officer, Michael Franklin, also accused Brasher town officials of favoritism, spying and other irregularities.

On Tuesday, town officials would not comment. But now they say Franklin was way off base.

“All I can say is it was unfortunate. If anybody wants to see the data, we have it here at the town. We’d be more than willing to show it to them,” said Mark Peets, Brasher town supervisor.

In a prepared release issued Wednesday, Peets defended the town-wide reassessment of more than 2,000 properties. He points out only 102 were grieved. Only eight properties ended up before the hearing officer.

“As far as the town of Brasher and St. Lawrence County and the state, we followed all the rules,” said Peets.

Peets said no favoritism was shown to town officials’ homes or property in the reassessment.

Now 7 News has learned the state’s chief administrative judge fired Franklin on October 13. Franklin says he has received no explanation of why. He may sue. He defends his work.

“This is about accountability and transparency and treating taxpayers like customers,” said Franklin.

He also said he stands by his findings and allegations about town officials in the Perry case.

“I would not change a word that I said in the Perry case. What I wrote there was extremely thoroughly thought out,” said Franklin.

The town has been told Franklin’s reduction of Perry’s assessment will stand. It cannot be appealed.

There is one thing that may have made the property reassessment a little more painful in Brasher: there hadn’t been a wholesale reassessment like this done in more than a decade.

Long periods between reassessments can lead to sticker shock for some property owners. But, New York state does not require regular reassessments; it only requires that assessments overall be fair.

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