By Laurie Ortolano
Most residents do not understand how much money it is costing us when the City of Nashua retains assessors who do not care about the quality of their work. The result is literally tens of thousands of our tax dollars being erroneously and irresponsibly given away.
For the past four years, Greg Turgiss has been handling (or mishandling) commercial abatements for large sums of money. An example of this occurred in August 2018 when the Assessor recommended approval for an abatement request for the lot in which Aldi’s leases their store on Amherst Street across from Whole Foods. He was recommending Aldi’s receive $27,000 back in property taxes which Aldi’s was not responsible to pay. The clerk requested proof that Aldi’s was the aggrieved party. It appears no proof was provided and Aldi’s did not file an appeal to the State.
Mr. Turgiss spent his time pulling documents together to present to the Board of Assessors a recommendation for approval for a $27,000 tax reduction to the store. When he brought the paperwork to the Board clerk, she questioned why a signed agreement wasn’t included. Greg’s response was, I just want to get rid of it. It was the clerk’s job to put the Board packet together, review the information for errors, and send it to all Board members. This long time clerk always had signed agreements provided with the paperwork for commercial properties being recommended for tax reductions and abatement approvals.
Our Board of Assessors has no assessing background, rarely questions the staff, and relies completely on the information provided by the assessors. According to the NH State law, the Board of Assessors has the responsibility to grant or deny abatements. From what I have seen, this Board goes along with the Assessors 99% of the time. It is easy to fool them.
The clerk then brings the issue to former Chief Duhamel and shows him the information in the packet being sent out that day to members of the Board. She expressed her concerns but, shockingly, Duhamel sided with Greg and told her to process the packet without a signed settlement agreement from the taxpayer. She cautioned the Chief regarding RSA 76:16 and the law.
Under orders, the Clerk sent the packet out, with the recommendation for approval for Aldi’s, for the last Board meeting in August 2018. Our Board of Assessors is only reviewing paperwork sent by the Assessors in the packet to render their decisions. The taxpayer’s abatement application and backup documents are not included. This appears to be in violation of NH RSA 76:16 paragraph II, which states the members “shall review the application.”
The Legal Department appears to have recognized this serious issue and the Board members were told at the meeting that this abatement would need to be denied. This Assessor continues to mishandle properties to this day.
In March 2019, Assessing Chief Duhamel was let go, after it was made public that he was rarely in the office supervising assessors. In an inexplicable Mayoral move, Kim Kleiner was promoted into a newly created Administrative Services Director position to serve as the Manager of Assessing. Ms. Kleiner gives Mr. Turgiss the responsibility of reviewing ALL abatements. (It was discovered by another Assessor that Greg had not opened an envelope on his desk that contained several 2018 abatements and these were recorded after the “deemed denial” date. How would you like to be one of those property owners?)
According to the Assessing Standards Board regulations, all abatements must be reviewed by a certified supervisor. Greg was the only certified supervisor in the office at that time. However, Ms. Kleiner was telling us that Mr. Turgiss was not acting as a Supervisor. Were we following the regulations? As you know, there have been formal complaints filed to the Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) by Nashua taxpayers against this Assessor for ethics and rules violations. This resulted in sanctions by the DRA.
Ms. Kleiner had no assessing background and clearly did not know the regulations or laws. She was not reading the rules. Residents were reading the rules, contacting the State DRA, and asking them to review the situation and bring our department into compliance.
The DRA certification website now has Greg Turgiss listed as a certified property assessor; no longer a supervisor. We learned the City approved hiring a consultant for the next year to serve as an Assessing Supervisor. This is a $125,000 position for a 1-year part-time contract to perform the job that the Mayor and Ms. Kleiner believed Mr. Turgiss was doing. Mr. Turgiss should be fired for cause. It is outrageous that taxpayers are paying salaries and benefits to keep an incompetent person employed and now funding a hefty consulting contract because city officials are too lazy to do their jobs.
The clerk who identified this error and many others was fired. It’s all political now.
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