November 17, 2003
The Bureaucrats Must've Smelled The Tar Boiling
Last week I linked to a news item about 89-year old Helene Shue whose near-$1 million Pennsylvania farm was seized by asshole-county-tax-officials and auctioned off for $15,000 because, the asshole-county-tax-officials alleged, the elderly owner failed to pay a $572 property tax. Helene's nephew disputed the county's claim insisting that the tax had been paid but that the county returned Helene's check because it wasn't certified. The asshole-county-tax-officials smugly suggested that Helene take the matter to court if she wasn't satisfied.
Fortunately for Helene, she didn't have to go to court to get justice. The Patriot-News reports the happy resolution:
Helene Shue has lived on her 41-acre farm near Hershey for 50 years, and it is where she wants to spend her remaining days. Last night, the 89-year-old widow learned that she will get her wish.
Shue's land and home in South Hanover Twp. was sold at a tax sale in September because of $572 in unpaid taxes from 2001. She had paid her taxes in full every other year, including this year.
Philip Dobson of Middle Paxton Twp. paid $15,000 for the land on Route 39. But he met yesterday with Shue's nephew, John Arndt, and agreed to give back the land. The county has agreed to reimburse Dobson.
Arndt was so delighted that he invited Dobson to visit Shue. They went to Shue's home together to tell her that she was getting her land and house back.
"Oh, my God, I can't believe it," Shue said, hugging Dobson and her nephew. "I won't forget this day."
The sale of Shue's property drew national attention following a story in The Patriot-News last Friday.
So was the county's seizure of Helene Shue's property legal? It seems to me that if the county had acted in accordance with the law, there's no way it would have reimbursed the developer the $15,000 he paid for Helene's property.
The most disturbing aspect of this abuse of power is that it was resolved only because the Patriot-News publicized it. Otherwise, thieving bureaucrats would have succeeded in stealing an old woman's home.
The Helene Shue case is instructive. When abusive bureaucrats encounter public scrutiny, they run for cover like vampires at sunrise.
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