Several Service New Brunswick managers survive property assessment scandal
Homeowner says those responsible should be held accountable
The day after the release of New Brunswick Auditor General Kim MacPherson's searing report naming senior Service New Brunswick managers as the primary cause of the province's property tax scandal, homeowners caught up in the scheme want to know how those responsible will be held accountable.
So far among executives and managers in charge during the scandal there has been one retirement, two internal transfers and a couple of promotions.
Brian Lynch, who was stunned by a $1,500 increase in his property tax bill in March, is hoping for stronger action.
"They perpetrated a fraud on myself and many other homeowners by putting false numbers into the system and anything that is falsified is fraud," he said.
Lynch's tax increase was eventually revoked when it was discovered a new assessment system had overvalued his home by $77,700, and Service New Brunswick managers had been using a formula to add fake home renovation amounts to property accounts like his that maximized tax increases.
Face the consequences
Now that MacPherson has named names Lynch wants those responsible to face consequences.
MacPherson revealed a number of new details about the property tax scandal Thursday, including that a plan to make up renovation amounts on homes that had not been fixed up, was not a last minute decision.
In New Brunswick, houses cannot be given property tax increases of more than 10 per cent per year unless they have undergone significant improvements.
Senior managers named
MacPherson told a committee of MLAs it was unclear to her exactly who devised the fake renovation idea but for the first time she did name the Executive Director of Property Assessment Services, Charles Boulay as the senior person who approved the plan.
"Property Assessment Services management recommended the formula to the executive director," she said. "There were probably meetings and discussions about this and I think the important point, which is in the report, is that it was the executive director that approved it."
Lower level employees were not told about the scheme until February of this year, less than a month before property tax bills were to be issued.
That lead to an assumption it was a desperate last minute idea but MacPherson revealed it had been drawn up and approved five months earlier, in September, and had always been part of the planning for a new assessment system.
She declined to call the decision to fabricate renovation amounts on homes a crime but did declare it inappropriate.
"We didn't go to the extent of assessing whether or not it was fraudulent. We do indicate quite clearly I think that it was not industry standard, industry practice to make such an assumption," MacPherson said.
Service New Brunswick was not able to tell her how many homeowners it used the fabricated renovation formula on.
"The formula was applied to at least 2,022 properties," read MacPherson's report. "There were additional properties with this formula applied, however, Property Assessment Services is unable to identify exactly how many."
There have been changes at Service New Brunswick since the tax controversy erupted but so far all of the senior managers directly involved with the property assessment controversy have remained with the provincial government, except one who retired.
Prior to MacPherson's report being released, it was first shared with Service New Brunswick for comment and Charles Boulay was subsequently moved from his position as executive director of assessment services to a new position with the department's property registry division.
One of his direct subordinates, Stephen Ward, has been promoted to replace him as acting executive director. Ward had been director of property valuation inside the assessment branch as the controversy unfolded and was heavily involved with fast track decisions.
Boulay's direct supervisor, Alan Roy was promoted from vice president to chief executive officer of Service New Brunswick in Sept. 2016 in the middle of fast track implementation and remains in that position.
The former Chief Executive Officer Gordon Gilman finished out his career as a deputy minister and retired on Wednesday, on the eve of MacPherson's report being released.
Brian Lynch feels what happened to him and thousands of others like him was too serious for the punishments he has seen so so far.
"If there are people who are definitely responsible and can be identified for what happened they should be facing some sort of discipline," said Lynch