At first blush, the story seemed relatively straight forward.... for Rensselaer County. Still, there remain unanswered questions. Why settle for $180,000 in August of '07 when you could have settled for $110,000 less than a year ago? What were the 'up-dated' facts? How were they 'up-dated'? Was it some new computer program? And why was Reverend Jackson suing the Rensselaer County Executive?
Since our government will not explain their change of heart, or what this was all about, we did some digging for those that may be interested. First, a little background.
Plaintiff Jeffry Jackson brought a civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his First Amendment right to free speech was violated when Defendants failed to reappoint him as the Director of the Bureau of Real Property Tax Services in retaliation for speaking out about Rensselaer County Local Law No. 6.* Jackson also alleged that Defendant Rensselaer County was liable for actions taken by Jimino, as a final policymaker, for failing to reappoint him as retaliation for exercising his First Amendment right.
Plaintiff, a Rensselaer County employee for twenty-six (26) years, worked as the County Director of Real Property Tax Services for approximately ten (10) years. Compl. at P 1; Pl.'s Dep., dated July 27, 2004, at p. 6, lines 16-24, p. 9, lines 15-24, & p. 10, lines 1-13. As Director, Plaintiff was an "independent officer reporting directly to the county legislative body.Defs.' 7.1 Statement at P 5; Pursuant to N.Y. REAL PROP. TAX LAW § 1532, the Director's duties include preparing and maintaining tax maps as well as providing copies of the maps in accordance with N.Y. REAL PROP. TAX LAW § 503. Defs.' 7.1 Statement at P 6. Under N.Y. REAL PROP. TAX LAW § 503, the original tax maps are to be filed in the Director's office. Defs.' 7.1 Statement at P 7; In conjunction with other duties, the Director provides advisory services to city and town assessors. Defs.' 7.1 Statement at P 8; Pl.'s 7.1 Statement at P 8.
Plaintiff states that when he became the Director of Real Property Tax Services, he took an oath to uphold the Constitution and laws of the State of New York, including those which involved the proper performance of his duties under the Real Property Tax Law. Defs.' 7.1 Statement at P 15; Pl.'s 7.1 Statement at P 15. During his service in this position, Plaintiff spoke out as to his concern over the legality of Rensselaer County Local Law No. 6, which transferred tax mapping services from his department to the County's Bureau of Research and Information Services ("BRIS").** Defs.' 7.1 Statement at PP 9 & 16; Pl.'s 7.1 Statement at PP 9 & 16. In his objection to the transfer, Plaintiff communicated at work and publicly from 1996 until 2002 through letters and memoranda about this issue and the potential effects on the administration of real property tax within Rensselaer County. Defs.' 7.1 Statement at PP 10; 17; Pl.'s 7.1 Statement at PP 10 & 17. Plaintiff asserted that the transfer of mapping services "made it difficult for the Bureau of Tax Services] to perform an essential element of its service function to assessors, severely hampered the administration of the local property tax throughout Rensselaer County, and made it difficult for the Bureau of Tax Services to supply tax maps to assessors and otherwise to perform its duties in a timely manner." Defs.' 7.1 Statement at P 11; Pl.'s 7.1 Statement at P 11.
Those facts come directly from court papers.*** We'll cease using citations because it makes reading really annoying.
For now, let us sum-up.
Jeffry Jackson, a County appointee, believed that Local Law 6 was illegal and that transferring services from his bureau to another would screw up property tax assessments. And he said so.
That's the general set-up.
*Local Law 6 can be found in Rensselaer County Local Laws, preceding Local Law 7.
**We had no idea the County performed Bris services. Rachmana Litzlon!
*** See, Court Papers at Ibid.