Winnipeg property appraiser claims city targeted him, clients for 'economic injury'

A Winnipeg property appraiser who specializes in tax appeals claims city officials have targeted him and his clients "for the express purposes of causing economic injury."

Rocky Neufeld alleges his success at tax appeals led city to penalize his clients

Winnipeg's chief financial officer, top tax assessor and other officials are named in a statement of claim from a property appraiser who says he's been targeted for economic harm. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

A Winnipeg property appraiser who specializes in tax appeals claims city officials have targeted him and his clients "for the express purposes of causing economic injury."

In a statement of claim dated Oct. 23, Rocky Neufeld has asked Manitoba's Court of Queen's bench for an injunction preventing Winnipeg chief financial officer Mike Ruta, top tax assessor Kevin Shields and other officials "from continuing to harm" his business and economic interests.

In the claim, Neufeld alleges city officials withheld pertinent information from him, took unreasonable positions on his cases and asked that penalties be imposed on his clients.

In addition to an injunction, Neufeld is seeking damages for the actions he alleges took place over the past two years.Neufeld has worked on property tax appeals since 1996. Property owners hire him to represent them before Winnipeg's board of revision and Manitoba's municipal board, which hear and decide appeals about the assessed value of properties.

Neufeld claims in response to his successful appeals at the board of revision, city officials have requested unreasonable increases to the assessed value of his clients' properties and the imposition of penalties.

In his statement of claim, he cites six examples of "grossly inflated property values" he says were reached by valuation methodologies that are not sanctioned by the city or any professional appraisal standard.

Neufeld claims no other professional appraiser has been targeted in this manner by the city. In his claim, he says 60 per cent of the city's requests to the board of revision for property assessment increases involved his cases, while he only represents 20 per cent of the commercial property owners and 10 per cent of the residential property owners who bring appeals before the board of revision.

In the claim, Neufeld says he has lost clients as a result of the city's actions and can't attract new ones. He also claims a former city assessor defamed him in a letter to his boss at real estate firm Colliers.Neufeld said in an interview he proceeded with the lawsuit to protect him and his clients.

Property appraiser Rocky Neufeld says in a statement of claim that city officials have targeted his business and his clients. (Colliers)

That letter, included in Neufeld's statement of claim, accuses the appraiser of professional misconduct described as "bullying behaviour" and "unsupported allegations" Winnipeg's assessment and taxation department is targeting him personally when it requests penalties.

"An assessor has a duty to the citizens of Winnipeg, and they're failing to do that duty," he said of Winnipeg's assessment and taxation department.

"We're always accused of trying to win at all costs. Now the city has turned this around. They're trying to win at all costs."

None of the statements in the claim have been proven in court. The City of Winnipeg has yet file a statement of defence.

The City of Winnipeg declined comment.

"The city has no comment as the matter is before the courts," communications manager David Driedger said in a statement.