Lackawanna County Commissioners speak out about tax collection controversy

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) – It’s a he said, she said situation in Lackawanna County. It all has to do with Lackawanna County’s attempt to collect delinquent taxes and the City of Scranton’s attempt to put a stay on tax liens.

“The mayor has no legal authority to stay liens filed with the Lackawanna County Clerk of Judicial Records,” said Debi Domenick, Lackawanna County Commissioner.

But the mayor says otherwise. To understand this dispute, you have to go back to last year, when Lackawanna County and the City of Scranton agreed on allowing the county to file liens on behalf of the city. But county commissioners say just this week, Mayor Paige Cognetti said the city “was not told this was going to happen and it was not agreed to.”

However, paperwork shows Mayor Cognetti signed it into law last September.

“Based upon these undisputed facts, the mayor’s statement that she did not know this was going to happen makes the mayor either dishonest or incompetent,” said Domenick.

More than 1,000 city tax delinquencies have been settled so far this year. But may residents complained. Mayor Cognetti announced Thursday she is initiating a “stay” of 120 days for the delinquent properties. This leaves the question, is the mayor’s announcement legally binding?

“No, there is absolutely no impact relative of the request of the 120 day stay. There is a legal process that has to be filed for that to be enacted,” said Frank Ruggiero, Lackawanna County Solicitor.

But the Scranton City Solicitor begs to differ.

“Yes, the stay is in effect. The mayor’s action, there will be no sales under the Municipal Claims Act while the stay is in effect. The consequence of the stay is nothing the taxpayers have to be concerned about,” said Joseph O’Brien, Scranton City Solicitor.

Mayor Cognetti says she just wants the best for city residents.

“I think it’s important to note the stay is in effect because we need to make sure we are not putting undue pressure and hardship on people who are already suffering during this pandemic from circumstances out of their control,” said Cognetti.

She wants to make sure that everyone understands that the stay does not mean an exoneration from taxes and the city is still collecting taxes and making sure taxpayers are aware of the amount they owe.

With delinquent Scranton property taxes Lackawanna County has collected so far, the City of Scranton has received nearly $864,000. The city will meet with the Tax Claim Bureau next week.

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