WILL Sues Town over Illegal Searches Relating to Property Tax Assessments

Published on: August 6, 2014

[vc_row fullwidth=”false” attached=”false” padding=”0″ visibility=”” animation=””][vc_column border_color=”” visibility=”” width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]Government officials are prohibited from entering your home and searching it without your permission – that’s a bedrock principle of the Fourth Amendment.  As a corollary, government cannot punish people who choose to exercise that constitutional right.  Yet that’s exactly what the Town of Dover, in Racine County, did.

Vincent Milewski and Morganne MacDonald, husband and wife, own a modest home in the Lorimar Estates subdivision of Dover.  In 2013, Dover officials decided to reassess local property values, hiring Gardiner Appraisal Service, LLC, to do the reassessment.  When Vincent and Morganne refused to allow a Gardiner employee – a complete stranger to them – to search the interior of their house, Gardiner arbitrarily assigned an increased assessment to their property without even bothering to ask them any questions about their home.

When Vincent and Morganne investigated the other assessments in Lorimar Estates, they found something curious.  While 39 of the parcels decreased in value – by an average of 5.81% – 4 parcels increased in value – by an average of 10.01%.  What did those 4 homes have in common?  None of their owners permitted Gardiner to search the interior of the homes.

As if it weren’t bad enough the Town of Dover is punishing Vincent and Morganne for exercising their constitutional rights by raising their assessment, state law punishes them further by refusing to allow them to challenge their assessment before the Board of Review.  Under the law, no matter how arbitrary an assessment might be, if you exercised your constitutional right to refuse to consent to a government search, you have absolutely no right to challenge it.

“We think that law is unconstitutional,” said Tom Kamenick, Associate Counsel at WILL.  “The government can’t punish you for objecting to a warrantless search of your house, whether by raising your assessment in retaliation or preventing you from objecting to your assessment.”

Plaintiff Morganne MacDonald commented that, “Some things are just wrong.  Abuse of power is just wrong. Standing up, even when it hurts, is right. That’s what Vince and I are doing.”

A copy of the filed complaint is here.[/vc_column_text][mk_fancy_title tag_name=”h2″ style=”false” color=”#153955″ size=”26″ font_weight=”normal” font_style=”normal” txt_transform=”none” letter_spacing=”1″ margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”18″ font_family=”none” font_type=”” align=”left” animation=”” el_class=””]Case Documents[/mk_fancy_title][prettyfilelist type=”pdf” tags=”milewski-v-town-of-dover” tag=”streetcar-challenge”][/vc_column][/vc_row]