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Graham case timeline
Massachusetts law requires that all properties be assessed at 100 percent of the fair market price. Every three years, every town must complete a revaluation, which must be certified by the state before any tax bills may be sent out.
May 2005: William W. Graham files an appeal with the state appellate tax board for a reduction in his West Tisbury property taxes for fiscal years 2003 and 2004. Mr. Graham claims that the town's assessed value of his property is not justified and has resulted in overpayment of property taxes.
July 2005: West Tisbury executive secretary Jennifer Rand tells the selectmen that the town needs more money to pay legal expenses in fiscal years 05 and 06. Plans are made to ask voters at a special town meeting in November for $83,000 to pay FY05 legal expenses incurred for May and June in defense of the lawsuit brought by William Graham.
August 2005: The Massachusetts Appellate Tax board travels to West Tisbury for one session to accommodate Raymond Houle, 85, and Stanton Richards, both long-time members of the board of assessors.
Sept. 2005: The hearings in William Graham's appeal of his 2003 and 2004 West Tisbury property taxes end after 36 days of testimony, entering 450 exhibits, and filling more than 2,000 pages of transcripts. It is the longest running case in the history of the ATB.
Oct. 2005: William Graham delivers a letter to the West Tisbury selectmen, offering to withdraw his claim against the town if the town will change the way properties are assessed. If the selectmen agree to negotiate, Mr. Graham says he would ask the ATB to suspend the remaining steps in the case, saving both parties additional legal expenses. He also warns that should the case go forward there would "inevitably" be appeals, with still more expense.
Nov. 2005: At a special town meeting n Nov. 16 West Tisbury voters, upset with the size of the bills and the accounting process, refuse to pay past and future legal expenses ($55,000 and $200,000) associated with the town's defense of the Graham lawsuit suit.
Nov. 2005: In a Nov. 25 editorial [No Confidence: A call for Resignations] the Vineyard Gazette says that the West Tisbury electorate is in "quiet revolt" and calls upon the assessors and Ms. Resendes to resign in order to "clear the air and restore the credibility of responsible government...."
Dec. 2005: In a meeting with the West Tisbury selectman Mr. Graham accuses Michael Colaneri, chairman of the assessors, and Jo-Ann Resendes, principal assessor in West Tisbury of fraud and twisting the system. Selectman Glenn Hearn says he thinks the selectmen should step into the case and bypass the assessors completely. Selectmen Jeffrey "Skipper" Manter says he wants the selectmen to negotiate a settlement and put pressure on the assessors to accept it. Selectman John Early expresses reservations about Mr. Hearn's plan and says that he would be willing to bring Mr. Graham's accusations to the assessors. Selectmen vote 3-0 to negotiate with Mr. Graham and present a settlement to the assessors.
Jan. 2006: Urged on by selectmen John Early to "do the right thing" West Tisbury voters at a special town meeting agree to pay most of the past and future legal expenses connected with the controversial William Graham tax case.
Feb. 2006: Assessor Ray Houle resigns for health reasons.
March 2006: Following the advice of town counsel, selectmen scheduled a special election for May 18 to fill Mr. Houle's seat. At the request of Mr. Colaneri they also appointed former selectman and former town treasurer Cynthia Mitchell as interim assessor.
April 2006: With the Graham case a campaign issue, Michael Colaneri (300 votes) wins a close race for reelection to the board of assessors against Jonathan Revere (290) and selectman Glenn Hearn (145). Skipper Manter defeats challenger James Alley, 395 to 342 in the race for selectman.
May 2006: In a special election Cynthia Mitchell (245) beats Cynthia Riggs (189) to fill an 11-month term on the board of assessors.