Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Best Laid Plans ...

27 Kendrick Place

I guess the only way to ensure a contract is carried out after you die is to never die, or quickly return as a vengeful ghost.

Eva Schiffer, former Select Board, Finance Committee member and long-time German language professor at UMass, left very specific instructions when she bequeathed her cute little house on Kendrick Place (the street, not the five-story mixed use building currently under construction in the north end of town center) to the Amherst Housing Authority.

After she dies, sell the house for 40% off to a blue collar town employee -- police, fire or DPW -- who would otherwise find it hard to afford the high property values in town combined with the highest property tax rate in the area.

In fact she was so specific she even banned anyone associated with those other branches of Amherst public services, the schools and library.

Thus the buyer, a town employee, would have benefited somewhat greatly via a hefty discount; but not so much the Housing Authority for brokering the deal.

Instead we have a town employee, Sandy Pooler, with a bleached white collar and member of the $100K club benefiting by a reduced price, $225K vs $269,700 assessed value ($307,000 appraised).

And the Housing Authority also greatly benefits by about $200,000 vs zero if the original contract had been followed.

Finance Director Sandy Pooler presenting to Amherst Town Meeting (showing them the money)

A dozen people did make inquiries about the property and they had equal opportunity to place a bid, so no special favors were shown to Mr. Pooler, the sole bidder.   Plus, those that know him would agree he's about as strait laced, goody two-shoes as they come -- so no aspersions on his involvement.

After all, who doesn't like a great deal on a house within walking distance to your office.

But there's also no doubt that the auction could have been better publicized, or the project turned over to a professional real estate agent (of which Amherst has many) who would have been motivated to work tirelessly for the greatest return.   


Anonymous said...

How did they get around part 6 of the agreement if you can't make more than $60K in 2007 adjusted for inflation I assume?

Larry Kelley said...

They pretty much threw out the agreement. Apparently a Judge was involved.

Jason Perry said...

Interesting fact pattern (the kind of stuff law professors in Real Property and Trusts and Estates love to sling at students). Would need to know the full facts, but, there are a lot of "hooks" and interesting facts here-

The document is titled as an Agreement. Let's assume it is a contract. It may fail as a contract because, on quick read, it seems to not impose any obligations on the Housing Authority.

If it is not a valid contract, then it would seem the transfer was not valid. Then, does the property become part of her estate upon death?

If it is a "will"/testamentary instrument, does it meet the requirements for a will? Would seem doubtful. Is there an actual will that addresses the property (with different or similar terms)?

If the agreement is valid, does is there a reversion to the estate upon death? Life estate with reversionary interest?

Are their heirs who could challenge the sale/transfer? Are there pretermitted heirs? Are there statutory pretermitted heir statutes that would change the outcome?

Well, this has been fun! Takes me back about 15 yrs to a lot of interesting classes that I have since never needed to look at again. Lots of interesting issues- but, for now, it looks like the real world has intruded and the sale appears to be valid. Hopefully this met the owners wishes!

Anonymous said...

Ever hear of the Barnes Foundation? There's a bigger example of a court changing the "letter" of a will in favor of (what the court viewed as) the "spirit"....

Anonymous said...

... of mice and men
often go awry.

- Robby Burns

Anonymous said...

I believe part of the issue had to deal with * conflict of issue law*.That municipal employees must abide by.

Anonymous said...

Still something fishy here, doesn't look good by all accounts.

Anonymous said...

Since when did a written legal contract mean anything? This also applies to the Carriage Shop mural story below. The town will do whatever it wants to do. I really would like to know or made public all those involved in making the 5 story zoning change downtown.

Anonymous said...

Please read MGL Ch 268A Section 23 (b) 2 which states:
(b) No current officer or employee of a state, county or municipal agency shall knowingly, or with reason to know: (2) (i) solicit or receive anything of substantial value for such officer or employee, which is not otherwise authorized by statute or regulation, for or because of the officer or employee’s official position; or (ii) use or attempt to use such official position to secure for such officer, employee or others unwarranted privileges or exemptions which are of substantial value and which are not properly available to similarly situated individuals;

The Agreement was not in compliance with the State Ethics Commission (Conflict of Interest) and could have caused fines.