Bob Hoffman speaks during publ...
HOLLY TOWNSHIP, Michigan – Oakland County Commissioner Bob Hoffman spoke out again Wednesday night on behalf of Holly Township residents, Timm and Maria Smith.
The Smiths are currently involved in a lawsuit with Holly Township regarding the ownership of a 10-acre portion of the 20-acre S. Holly Road property the Smiths once entirely owned. A legal land split of the parcel was never performed, and now the Smiths maintain that the mortgage on the 10-acre parcel on which they defaulted in 2008 was fraudulent.
Last month, the township board approved a motion to split the 20-acre parcel into three separate pieces for “tax purposes only,” something Treasurer Mark Freeman said was a way in which township officials could help the Smiths keep the remaining 10-acres they own. Authorization of the land split, Freeman said, will give the Smiths one final opportunity to make good on their back taxes, penalties and interest, thus preventing it from going into scheduled tax forfeiture on Mar. 1.
Wednesday night’s appearance before the Holly Township Board of Trustees marked the fifth time Hoffman has spoken in support of the Smith family, and accused township officials of attempting a “land grab” of the 20-acre parcel along the Shiawassee River.
Hoffman spoke directly to Freeman, referencing a March, 2012 meeting in which he and Freeman, former Supervisor Jesse Lambert, township attorney, Lisa Hamameh and the Smiths’ attorney, Casper Connolly tried to reach a compromise.
“When I met with you, former Supervisor Lambert, your attorney and the Smiths’ attorney, I specifically asked you what was happening with the taxes because I was concerned that Holly Township planned to gain the property through tax foreclosure,” Hoffman said. “You said not to worry because you had made an agreement with Oakland County and the property would not be foreclosed for back taxes.”
Hoffman challenged Freeman’s promise. “The truth, Mr. Freeman, is you had no agreement,” he said, adding that he had verified the information with Oakland County officials. “You stated in the newspaper that you are only taking this action to split the parcel because you received an affidavit from Oakland County that the property is scheduled for foreclosure in February of 2013.”
Calling Freeman’s portrayal of the facts “misleading,” Hoffman said it was his belief that the only way Oakland County knew that the taxes were delinquent was because Freeman reported them as such.
Hoffman said he met on Jan. 9 with members of the Oakland County Equalization Division, including Director David Hieber, Field Supervisor Ann Grady and Supervisor of Tax Descriptions and Mapping, Brenda Firestine.
“I was told that as of that day, Holly Township hadn’t even applied for the land division at the 1031 S. Holly property,” Hoffman said. Additionally, Hoffman said it was the main consensus among the Oakland County Equalization staff members with whom he met that they had no intention of approving the proposed land split.
“It’s just another attempt to steal their land,” Hoffman said during Wednesday evening’s public comment. “You can’t split the property for taxes only and you continue to violate the Land Division Act.”
Holly Township Treasurer, Mark...
In a written correspondence on Friday, Freeman said no recordings or transcripts were made of March 2012 meeting. “The township board authorized me and Mr. Lambert to meet with Mr. and Mrs. Smith to make an offer to purchase their remaining interest in (the land) commonly known as 1031 S. Holly Road,” Freeman said. While neither of the Smiths attended the meeting, Freeman acknowledged Hoffman’s participation. “There was a verbal confidentiality agreement between Mr. Hoffman and myself which I later confirmed in a phone call to Mr. Hoffman after the meeting,” Freeman wrote. “Both Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Smith have broken that agreement.”
In his letter, Freeman acknowledged Hoffman’s role on the Oakland County Board of Commissioners, but questioned his interest in the Smiths’ case.
“He has absolutely no authority over Holly Township government what-so-ever,” he wrote. “Mr. Hoffman has the right to speak during the public comment portion of the township board meetings just like any other citizen,” he added. “His continued efforts to sensationalize this issue are suspect, because only the Appellate Court can decide the issue.”
In speaking with newly elected Supervisor Dale Smith and Trustee Mark Cornwell, Hoffman said he understood that both men believed that the Smiths’ dispute is simply about “a mortgage foreclosure.”
“It is my opinion that you did no investigation, because if you had, you would not have come to that conclusion,” Hoffman said. “All you have done is pass on what you have been told by Ms. Winchester and Mr. Freeman, and that, gentlemen, is not leadership.”
On Dec. 28, Freeman and Supervisor Dale Smith, both members of the Land Division Committee, met and approved the land division for tax purposes only of the 1031 S. Holly property and forwarded it onto Oakland County Equalization for its approval. Freeman, however, said he met with Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner on Jan. 17 and was informed that the Smiths have signed a payment agreement with Oakland County for delinquent taxes. “This effectively suspends the delinquent tax forfeiture process, so as long as Mr. and Mrs. Smith meet the terms of the agreement,” Freeman said.