CLARK, NJ — Township officials have released a statement encouraging residents to exercise caution if they are approached by an individual or organization promising to help with property tax related issues for a fee.
The Town of Clark is urging citizens to contact the Tax Collector's office with questions before agreeing to use the services provided as some of these solicitors are falsely implying they work for the township. The correspondence also reminds residents that the Open Public Records Act requires the township to provide ownership records and tax information about properties.
There was discussion of the challenges OPRA regulations present on a township level at a recent workshop meeting of the Town Council. During the meeting, Township Clerk, Edith Merkel shared information about why the OPRA act makes citizens vulnerable to scams and deceit.
“It’s very disturbing, no one has any privacy anymore we have to give out all the tax records (to any party filing an OPRA request) and they want to know everyone that is delinquent, everyone who has been in a tax sale and some of these people have gone to people’s homes , with no license to solicit from door to door and they have claimed that they work for the Township of Clark and that these people are going to lose their home if they don’t sign up with them to help clear this up,” said Merkel.
Merkel said she and Clark’s Tax Collector Laura Caliguire have been working together on this problem. According to Merkel, local police, Senator Scutari, Assemblyman Kennedy, the NJ Clerk’s Association and the NJ League of Municipalities have been notified of the situation. She confirmed that one of the attorney’s at the League of Municipalities will be speaking with Senator Weinburg, the originator of OPRA about the challenges for municipalities attending to these request.
“All we are really asking is to not have to give out the name and addresses (of homes with delinquent taxes etc…), if they want a block and lot and amount that is due, let them do the legwork and let them go online, not just we have to provide a list for them,” said Merkel.
Mayor Bonaccorso agreed with Merkel and had some strong words for members of state government and those that use OPRA to hide behind agendas.
“I’ve worked in government, when you would ask for a document and got the run around for six months. I am in favor of the transparency (OPRA), but the problem is the state government doesn’t have to comply, they can do whatever they want,” said Bonaccorso.
“The fact that you can ask the governor what he settled the CWA contract for and he’s not telling anybody but we have to give out people’s business. It’s the same with these little scoundrels that want to play councilmen-to-be on elections that come under names of Concerned Clark Citizens looking in to stuff and the bottom line is you want open public records? Put your name on it, your address and give me your phone number and your welcome to anything we have.”
Merkel reminded citizens that no one is permitted to solicit in Clark without a license and to consider using the 'No Solicitation' signs distributed by the township on their doors to dissuade anyone from ringing their doorbell.
This is the letter distributed to citizens by the Township of Clark:
TO ALL CLARK TAX PAYERS: The Tax Office has been informed that Clark Residents are being contacted by outside agencies offering their services, for a fee, to bring Property Taxes Current, Redeeming Liens or Obtaining Refunds due to them.
These agencies are not associated with the Tax Collector’s office and are not authorized to solicit business door to door. Use your “No Soliciting” sticker to keep unwanted visitors off of your property.
State law requires the Township to provide tax documents under the Open Public Records Act, such as delinquent taxes/sewer, overpayment of taxes/sewer and Open Tax Lien information.
Be advised that the Tax Collector’s office WILL NOT come to your house or call you. All communication, regarding Property Taxes and/or Sewer Utility charges, will be communicated through regular mail delivery on Township of Clark Letterhead. YOU ARE STRONGLY ADVISED TO CONTACT THE TAX COLLECTOR’S OFFICE AT 732-428-8403 PRIOR TO ENTERING INTO ANY CONTRACT FOR SUCH SERVICES.