Two Panther Valley School Board members, who have been against using a private tax collection agency to collect the district's delinquent taxes, are speaking out.
R. Mickey Angst and Tom Shober, who are both listed as defendants in a recent case filed by Carbon County against the Panther Valley School District for the return of its delinquent tax records from 2000, want their names dropped from the case.
Angst said he agrees with the county's position.
"I am ashamed to have my name associated with anything about Portnoff (Law Associates, Ltd.)," Angst said during a phone interview. "I have fought them since the day I heard of them."
He said he is doing everything in his power to have his name dropped from the case, including planning on attending the commissioners' meeting on Thursday.
"I plan on going to the commissioners' meeting to plead with them," he said. "I support the county's decision. The county is right, we shouldn't be dealing with them."
Angst said that when the vote to hire Portnoff arose at a previous school board meeting, he was one of two "no" votes; the motion passed with five votes "yes." One member abstained from the vote and Shober was absent.
Shober said he feels he should not be named as a defendent because he never voted to retain Portnoff as the district's delinquent tax collector, and was not a board member in 2000 when Panther Valley voted to hire Portnoff.
"The bottom line is that I was not at the meeting when they voted to retain Portnoff," Shober stressed. "I don't want to be associated with the five people who voted to retain them."
The case against Panther Valley for the return of its delinquent tax records to the Carbon County Tax Claim Bureau was filed in the county prothonotary's office on Friday.
Listed as defendants are Panther Valley School District, Superintendent Rosemary Porembo, Ronald Slivka, Anthony Pondish, Anthony DeMarco, David Hiles, Shober, William Hunsicker, Jeff Markovich, Donna Trimmel, and Angst, in their capacity as members of the Panther Valley School District School Board.
The court action seeks to have delinquent tax records that were collected by Portnoff Law Associates, Ltd. of Norristown, the firm hired by the school district to pursue the collection of delinquent real estate taxes from 2000 to the present, returned to the county, so that its tax claim bureau can have complete records of all property liens and delinquencies. It also seeks to obtain the 5 percent commission for each delinquent tax collection that the bureau is entitled to under the Pennsylvania Real Estate Tax Sale Law. According to the suit, that commission owed is at least $323,000 or more.
Panther Valley is the sole taxing entity that used Portnoff that has not cooperated in returning its delinquent tax records to the county. Other entities, including Jim Thorpe, Weatherly, and Hazleton school districts, as well as the borough of Summit Hill, have all cooperated with the county's requests and is working to resolve the issues.
The five taxing entities named above used Portnoff throughout the years because the company promised to get the delinquent tax money faster than the county, and its services would be of no charge to the district. The added expense for their services would instead be added to the delinquent taxpayer's bill.
When contacted for comment on Monday, Porembo said that under the direction of the school's legal counsel, they have been advised to provide no comment at this time.
She said that the school will be going over its documents and will issue a formal statement at a later time.