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Penkul v. Town of Lebanon

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

January 21, 2016

LINDA PENKUL
v.
TOWN OF LEBANON

         On Briefs September 28, 2015

          On the briefs: Linda Penkul, appellant, Pro se.

         Kenneth D. Keating, Esq., Roberts & Shirley Law Offices, Springvale, for appellee Town of Lebanon.

         Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          OPINION

Page 89

          PER CURIAM

          [¶1] Linda Penkul appeals from a judgment of the Superior Court (York County, Fritzsche, J.) affirming the decision of the York County Commissioners, entered after a de novo hearing, denying her request for abatement of real property taxes assessed by the Town of Lebanon. On the record before us, we affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

          [¶2] On April 1, 2013, Linda Penkul applied for abatement of real property taxes that the Town of Lebanon assessed against her property at a rate of $2,456.62 per year for each of the years 2011, 2012, and 2013. See 36 M.R.S. § 841(2) (2015).[1] Penkul asserted that she did not have enough income to meet expenses, and she reported sources of income, assets, debts, and monthly household needs.

          [¶3] The Town denied the application for abatement on the basis that the taxes had been paid. The York County Commissioners reached the same decision for the same reason on appeal. See 36 M.R.S. § 844(1) (2015). Penkul then filed documents in the Superior Court that the court treated as a complaint for judicial review of the County Commissioners' decision. See id. ; M.R. Civ. P. 80B(a). Penkul named the Town as a defendant in the document that the court treated as her complaint.[2] The court remanded the matter

Page 90

in September 2013 because the Town and the Commissioners had not explained their decisions and may have misunderstood the applicable law. See 36 M.R.S. § 844(1) (authorizing reimbursement of taxes already paid if an abatement is granted). The court " retain[ed] jurisdiction in the event that further review [was] requested."

          [¶4] After a new hearing, the Town again denied the request for property tax abatement in March 2014. Penkul appealed to the Commissioners. See id. Although we do not have a record of the proceedings before the Commissioners, the Commissioners' decision indicates that on May 7, 2014, they held a de novo hearing in executive session at which they accepted into the record all exhibits presented by the Town as well as Penkul's testimony.[3] The Commissioners left the record open to accept documentation from Penkul. According to their decision, the Commissioners later accepted into the record an additional 129 pages of exhibits from Penkul.

          [¶5] In a written decision issued on May 28, 2014, the Commissioners denied Penkul's application for abatement for tax years 2011 and 2012, and remanded the matter to the Town for further action with respect to tax year 2013.

          [¶6] After the Commissioners denied the application for abatement for the years 2011 and 2012, the Superior Court, which had " retain[ed] jurisdiction," considered Penkul's appeal from the denial of her application for tax abatement.[4]See id. (authorizing an appeal " from the decision of the county commissioners" ). Pursuant to the Maine Rules of Civil Procedure, Penkul had the responsibility to meet with all other parties before filing her brief to " agree on the record to be filed" and " ensure the preparation and filing with the Superior Court of the record of the proceedings of the governmental agency being reviewed." M.R. Civ. P. 80B(e)(1)(i), (2). The Superior Court ordered ...


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