Friday, February 12, 2010
Matthews-Rosenthal spat plays out in emails
The entire back-and-forth was CC'd to the entire City Council, city lawyers and others. Many people have copies.
Now all of you do, too:
From Kate Matthews 2/8/2010 8:53 AM
To Jonathan Rosenthal, economic development director; Mayor Art Ward; and Debbie Shapiro (BDA)
Gentlemen and Ms. Shapiro:
On Saturday, I received a phone call from Tom Read, of 151 High Street in Bristol. He obtained a grant from the City in 2004 to help him reroof his historic, Federal Hill home. Now, he and his wife seek to refinance their home, but are apparently unable to do so because the City has a "lien" on their home, arising out of this grant. According to Mr. Read, he has sought from the BDA (through Ms. Shapiro and Mr. Rosenthal) a "subordination" of this lien, which could clear title to the property and enable the Reads to take out a second mortgage. Mr. Read has represented to me that there is substantial equity in the home, approximately $45,000 even after the refinance, sufficient to provide the City with security for the $2,600 lien (which reduces by 10% every year the Reads occupy the home and will extinguish itself in four years).
Based upon what I've been told by Mr. Read, as set forth in his attached letter and grant document, this seems like a reasonable request to me. Subordinating the lien won't cost the City a dime, but will have a tremendous positive effect on the lives of Mr. and Nrs. Read, who are long-time Bristol residents who plan to live out the rest of their lives in their High Street home.
Mr. Read has informed me that time is of the essence, as the Reads had originally planned to close tomorrow afternoon. As you can see in his letter, he requested that a subordination be executed by the end of the day today. I advised Mr. Read that City government requires time to deliberate issues like these, and that his deadline did not appear to me to be feasible. Nevertheless, I wish to convey to you the urgency of the Reads' position.
Mr. Mayor, for your information, Mr. Read told me that he planned to stop by your office today to discuss this matter with you.
Thank you for your assistance. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. As well, I would appreciate it if you could keep me informed as to the status of this matter.
From Jonathan Rosenthal 02/08/10 2:26 PM
Dear Councilwoman* Matthews:
I met with Mr. Read this morning and the Mayor Ward this morning and the matter has been dealt with.
Jonathan Rosenthal, AICP, CEcD
Bristol Development Authority
*The official title is Councilman but it seems impolite to me.
From Tom Read to Kate Matthews
Wed, Feb 10, 2010 at 12:35 AM
Subject: Possible solution
I believe that I may have a possible solution to the impasse between me and the BDA. My solution is quite simple, but I'll need to speak with the Tax Collector tomorrow in order to confirm that it is a workable plan. What I have in mind is to advance pay our property taxes in the amount of $3250. This is a little less than two years advance tax payment. In the past, the Bristol Tax Collector would receive advance payments and keep them credited to the taxpayer's tax record so I don't believe that is a problem. Then, once each year I'll short pay our taxes in the amount of $650 until the tax surplus is extinguished in 5 years. The plan would require an agent of the City to be present holding a release upon the Grant agreement that was filed upon the Land Records of our home, and to accept the check for $3250.
I like this approach because my wife and I did qualify for the grant in 2004, and we are entitled to its full benefit -- one way or the other. I regret that I'll be paying interest upon my own money, but that is far better than giving it back to the BDA who have already said that if I did so in order to release the cloud upon our title it could not be refunded. Mr. Rosenthal may not like the solution because the funds are out of his reach, but I'm sure he can come up with a creative plan and instrument to place a cloud upon the Tax Collectors office. Meanwhile, the City has the funds in its coffers at all times. Mr. Rosenthal's personal inability to respect the common dignity, privacy, and property rights, of this family will not ever be an issue again.
My wife and I are highly stressed at this time. She fears that I may charge a windmill (I will not), and I am frustrated about all the difficulty that attempting to access our own ample equity has caused. As an example, my credit rating has dropped 10 points in the past month due to the credit report inquiries in December, January, and now February, that have resulted from our mortgage attempts. This plan would at least get this matter over, and we could conserve some measure of benefit from the so-called Grant.
Your reaction would be greatly appreciated if you have a few moments to comment. Thank you for your consideration.
From Matthews to Rosenthal
2/10/2010 8:23 AM
In the future, I would appreciate it if you would provide a little more detail rather than summarily stating that a particular matter into which I have inquired has been "dealt with". That is not a sufficient response, especially when I have taken the time to address the matter in detail for your reference and convenience. Furthermore, it does not necessarily represent the "status" of the matter, which is what I asked for. By way of example, this particular matter has clearly not been "dealt with", as evidenced by the fact that Mr. Read sent me the enclosed email at 12:26 this morning. Please address and provide me with a brief but informative update. Thank you for your assistance.
From Rosenthal to Matthews
02/10/10 7:58 AM
Dear Councilwoman Matthews:
Perhaps it would interest you that Mr. Read came in here and presented himself in an intimidating manner. I reported that to the police chief.
You might find some of his history documented on the internet.
And although it would be much easier to remain silent on this matter, so please forgive me being straightforward, may I suggest, with all humility and sincerity, that a ppersonal phone discussion is the most appropriate way to address complex matters?
As with many complaints, there may be additional information that would be helpful to know before rendering an opinion.
The staff has acted appropriately and followed the both guidelines and precedent. I fully back the staff's handing of this matter.
The Chairman of the BDA Policy Committee has been fully briefed and is in support of staff responses.
Mr. Read had the ability to appeal to the Board which meets on the 22nd of month, and was advised so, a date which was not to his liking.
Regardless, I am sorry if you are unhappy with the response but if you would like more information you will need to speak to Mayor Ward.
From Matthews to Rosenthal
2/10/2010 3:03 PM
If your response requires a personal phone call, then I expect you to make it. Either you are or you are not available to answer questions posed directly to you by members of the City Council regarding BDA matters. I have no issue with how your staff handled the matter with Mr. Read. I am concerned solely with your conduct and the tenor of your recent e-mails. If there are further updates to be made on this BDA matter, I expect you - not the Mayor = to keep me apprised. After all, he is very busy doing his own job and should not also be burdened with the duties of your position.
From Rosenthal to Matthews
02/11/10 9:01 AM
Dear Councilwoman Matthews,
Please let me make it clear to you and all those you been sharing this with that I have responded to as instructed by the mayor. The MAYOR wanted to update you and it isn't my place to circumvent his wishes. When Councilman Cockayne called me I answered all his questions. I am both a helpful and responsive person who also tries to follow instructions. The Mayor became involved by the nature of your first email communication.
While I appreciate your desire for a more detailed response, I feel I am being placed in a no-win situation -- to follow the rules, respond as you wish, and to follow orders. I don't understand why this little drama is being played out before the entire City Council. It's really simple and I really do want to be helpful and I think
you really would benefit by speaking with the mayor as he suggested rather than suggesting anything about my conduct which has been above board and appropriate.
I called you and left you a phone message a few moments ago. I would have avoided an additional email but I think it's important that the other members of the Council know that I am trying to respond appropriately and that I really am responding appropriately to the citizen.
Thank you for your consideration. I would certainly like to do anything I can to repair this mis-communication. Please consider calling.
From Matthews to Rosenthal
You put this email chain before the entire City Council when you hit "reply all" and sent your puzzling, condescending, and substantively inadequate email to me on February 8, 2010 at 3:26 p.m.
Respectfully, I have recently spoken to Mayor Ward, who has informed me that you should be responding to my direct inquiries in this particular BDA matter, as that is part of your job. You'll excuse me if I take him at his word.
I reported this BDA matter to you on Monday, February 8, 2010 at 8:53 a.m. In that email, I asked to be kept apprised of the status of this matter. As I stated in a prior email to you, if your response to my request requires a personal phone call, then I expect you to make it. Your attempt to call me for the first time today, after three days of antagonistic emails, and then report to the Mayor and City Council that you are being helpful and responsive, is both disingenuous and transparent.
I made a simple request. Not only have you failed to respond to my request, you've turned what could have been a polite and professional interaction between us into something less than pleasant. That is unfortunate.
I sincerely hope that your behavior and negative attitude, as evidenced by your emails, is not representative of the way you typically carry out the duties of your position.
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