Tax Collector Fails to Settle Duplicate; County to Initiate Claim

CLEARFIELD – At yesterday’s work session, the Clearfield County Commissioners authorized their solicitor to initiate procedures for making a claim after Huston Township Tax Collector Dorothy Johnston failed to settle her tax duplicate for 2013.

On Jan. 24, Solicitor Kim Kesner was notified by Jennifer Wooster, director of assessment and tax claims, that Johnston hadn’t settled her 2013 tax duplicate. Kesner advised Wooster that this created a “serious problem” for the county with the date of tax claims entry approaching.

According to Kesner, Section 32 of the Real Estate Tax Sale Law provides that if a tax collector hasn’t returned unpaid taxes by a certain date, then the taxing districts lose their lien. Then, he said they must resort to a civil case to collect unpaid taxes.

Upon his notification, Kesner addressed a letter to Johnston, which he sent by certified and regular mail. He notified Johnston of her legal obligations and if she failed to settle the duplicate for 2013, by law, she couldn’t be given the 2014 tax duplicate.

Kesner told the commissioners that subsequent to that Johnston verbally resigned as tax collector for Huston Township. On Tuesday morning, Kesner found out that Johnston had confirmed her resignation in writing to the Huston Township Supervisors.

However, Kesner said Johnston’s resignation doesn’t release her from her responsibility of the 2013 tax duplicate. He said the Huston Township Supervisors will appoint a new tax collector but that individual will not be responsible for 2013.

“Johnston is personally liable until it’s settled,” said Kesner. “And, there’s been no indication that she intends to work on it. In fact, I was told she’d stated, ‘the new tax collector can take care of it,’ which is not accurate.”

Kesner said that Wooster planned to notify the school district of the issue. The school district, he said, will need to be prepared to take whatever course of action that it deems fit.

Kesner explained to the commissioners that every tax collector is bonded, and the county can make a claim on it. He said Tax Collection Laws permit sureties the authority to seize the tax duplicate and to collect unpaid taxes.

The difficulty, Kesner said, was that time was of the essence and the process needed to be initiated sooner rather than later. The commissioners subsequently authorized Kesner to proceed with making a claim and notifying Johnston’s surety.

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