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Lawsuit puts stop to Michigan county's policy meetings

A Michigan county, its treasurer and land bank authority face a lawsuit claiming they violated the county's policy on land distribution as well as state law, causing a subcommittee devoted to assessing the county's land distribution policies to temporarily suspend additional meetings. The Kent County Taxpayers Alliance announced plans to sue the defendants for unfair business practices, alleging that they allowed the land bank to wrongfully acquire a number of properties.

According to the claim, county commissioners sold 44-tax foreclosed properties to the Kent County Land Bank Authority without first trying to auction them. "The state law that created land bank authorities is quite clear," explained a project manager with the Taxpayers Alliance. "The land bank may only acquire property either at an auction or after the auction process has completed. The county government decided to short-circuit this process."

The Kent County Land Bank Process Subcommittee, which was formed in order to evaluate the county's policy of selling tax-foreclosed properties before public auctions, recently decided to delay future meetings until the case develops further. "Once we get more information from the court we can move one. I just don't see any benefit of going forward until we hear from the court," explained one commissioner.

The county's Corporate Counsel said he initially planned to deliver an opinion regarding the county's land distribution policy at an upcoming subcommittee meeting, but explained that the lawsuit renders such action unnecessary. He added that the county wants to resolve the dispute as quickly as possible.

The case has been assigned to a Michigan Circuit Court judge, but a date has yet to be set as the county is expected to respond to the lawsuit.

Source: Grand Rapids Business Journal, "Land bank committee temporarily suspends meetings," David Czurak, Nov. 10, 2012

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