July 31, 2014

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Tax attorney must pay for failure to appear

Rami Awadallah

Rami Awadallah

The Ohio Board of Tax Appeals has sanctioned an Akron lawyer who filed multiple challenges to Lorain County property tax valuations and then failed to appear for hearings.

The attorney, Rami Awadallah, was ordered to pay fines and costs totaling $8,529.76, according to a copy of the board’s Oct. 9 decision.

Assistant County Prosecutor Jack Kilroy said the decision deals only with 11 cases that Awadallah failed to appear for in Columbus in September, but the problem is more widespread than that.

He said Awadallah, representing Strongsville-based Tax Compliance LLC, filed challenges in 85 separate Lorain County Board of Revision cases in which property owners were contesting the value of their properties.

Although he sometimes sent in some documents, Awadallah never appeared for any of those hearings, Kilroy said, which left the Board of Revision with little choice but to rule against the property owners.

After the Board of Revision issued its ruling against his clients, Awadallah then appealed the decision to the Board of Tax Appeals in Columbus and then failed to show up for those hearings, Kilroy said.

“He files these cases at the Board of Revision, charges people money, doesn’t show up and then has the gall to appeal them,” Kilroy said.

In his testimony before the Board of Tax Appeals, Lorain County Auditor Craig Snodgrass said the process of preparing for a Board of Revision hearing is time consuming for his staff and requires other parties, including school districts to appear.

“We have approximately 1,800 cases in Lorain County, residential,” Snodgrass said in testimony quoted in the Board of Tax Appeals decision. “And, you know, there is a backlog, and this is creating an undue burden to the rest of the staff there.”

Snodgrass also told the Board of Tax Appeals that Awadallah, who did not return a call seeking comment Friday, had done the same thing last year.

In the decision sanctioning Awadallah, the Board of Tax Appeals wrote that when an attorney takes up the case of their clients they also take on certain responsibilities. Awadallah even ignored an order that he appear to explain his actions, the board wrote.

The Board of Tax Appeals did reject the county’s request to dismiss the appeals filed by Awadallah and instead plans to rule on those cases based on what has been filed.

Kilroy said that Awadallah hasn’t just filed cases that he never showed up for in Lorain County, but has done so in other counties throughout Ohio.

He also said that Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office is looking into the situation, although a spokeswoman for DeWine said she could neither confirm nor deny if there is an ongoing investigation.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.