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County faces $100,000 suit for ‘pain, suffering and inconvenience’

by Larry Chowning

Middlesex County has been sued in U.S. Federal Court by Guy Ferrante and Deborah Shay Ferrante of Springfield for $100,000 in damages for “pain, suffering and inconvenience.” 

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and involves the county’s personal property tax on Mr. Ferrante’s boat. When the tax was not paid, the Middlesex County Treasurer’s Office issued “stops” to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which has kept the Ferrantes from being able to renew registrations on vehicles they own. DMV will not renew licenses until the treasurer lifts that action. 

In the Ferrantes’ complaint to the court, they claim their boat is not in Middlesex County and is not subject to Middlesex County personal property assessment and taxation. However, they contend the boat’s personal property tax is not at issue right now, but rather is only “relevant as the erroneous basis for the misguided actions that Middlesex County has taken.”

The complaint states that Middlesex County has declined to lift the “stops” on three jointly-owned cars until the personal property tax is paid and the county has in effect “taken” the three automobiles for reasons having nothing to do with those properties.

“Middlesex County has effectively taken Deborah Ferrante’s interest in three automobiles because of a boat that she does not own and is not responsible for,” the lawsuit states.

“Middlesex County has deprived plaintiffs of their property without due process of law,” states the lawsuit. “Middlesex County is extorting disputed personal property taxes on Guy Ferrante’s boat in exchange for releasing the stops.

“Middlesex County has stolen the value of three automobiles that Middlesex County has rendered useless by blocking their registration,” it states.

In addition to the $100,000, the Ferrantes have asked the court to order that “Middlesex County reimburse plaintiffs with the fair market value of the three automobiles that it has rendered useless for their intended purpose.”

Sands Anderson PC of Richmondis representing the county. At its November 6 meeting, the Middlesex Board of Supervisors approved $24,888 for legal fees “appropriated to cover legal services by additional counsel.”

Middlesex Treasurer Betty Bray said the case has been heard in federal court but a verdict has been “postponed,” and she prefers not to comment until the matter is resolved in court.

posted 11.26.2013

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