Monday, April 12, 2010

Landowners win lawsuit seeking Colorado's appraiser files

A group of landowners fighting to get records of alleged misdeeds by appraisers involved in conservation easements has won a lawsuit against the state after a judge ordered the Division of Real Estate to turn over its files. The landowners told the judge that the Colorado Department of Revenue unfairly challenged tax credits and deductions they took after donating conservation easements. Property owners said the easements were valued by appraisers who were disciplined by the state. They said appraisers who falsely inflated appraisals should have been held responsible. They also said some of the appraisals may have been justified, but there is no way to find out without the files. Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport said that the Board of Real Estate, which investigates complaints against appraisers, is not a law enforcement agency and that landowners suffered serious consequences as a result of their appraisals being challenged. She gave the state 30 days to hand over files of appraisers William Milenski and John Stroh, who were disciplined by the board over allegations they inflated land values. Milenski was allowed to surrender his license in 2008 and avoid punishment, and Stroh was given probation and a fine, according to state records. J.D. Wright, president of Land Owners United, which represents 80 landowners fighting the state, asked Gov. Bill Ritter to cease all audits and re-evaluate the state tax program after their tax credits were challenged by federal and state authorities because of faulty appraisals. "We'll at least get to see the charges brought against our appraisers," Wright said after the ruling was issued...more

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