CLEVELAND — Remember the schoolyard chant "Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers"?
It's all fun and games, unless you're talking about money. The ‘winner’ in this case is Cuyahoga County, who 'found' the money by overtaxing properties that were re-assessed at a lower rate after the 2008 housing crash.
Mark Musial, who owns an office building in Westlake, says it's high time he gets paid back.
"They collected the money and don't want to pay it back for some reason," he says. "I guess once you have money in your pocket it's harder to give it back when you might have already spent it."
Musial's building had been valued at $679,500 before the housing market took a nose dive. It was re-appraised at $499,000 in 2010. But for the next several years he was still taxed at the old value. And he wasn't alone!
"3,000 taxpayers had successfully filed complaints in the board of revisions to have their taxes lowered," says attorney Tom Robenalt, whose law firm filed a class action case in 2011.
Musial, who is named in the class action suit, says ten years ago the county promised to pay everyone back. But since then, nobody's seen a dime. "It seems like they've looked for reasons not to pay it back ever since," he says.
That's despite a judge's ruling that they were on the hook. The County was also denied a chance to appeal.
"The judgement against the county at this point is for something in the neighborhood of $3.8 million dollars," Robenalt says. "And the court has also indicated that interest is owed for the last ten years as well."
That adds another $1.2M, which the county is still fighting.
Robenalt says it's time to stop the madness.
"When the trial court says you owe money, you should pay it and shouldn't delay it."
We tried to reach the county for comment, but they declined. But Executive Armond Budish and Prosecutor Michael O'Malley were subpoenaed to testify
on Thursday, as to which office, if either, is responsible for paying attorney fees since they're accused of purposely dragging this out.