GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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October 24, 2013

State IG quiet on Conomo challenge

ESSEX — More than eight months ago, Essex resident Bruce Fortier filed a detailed complaint with the Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General over what he says are illegal sale agreements offered by the town to residents of Conomo Point.

And Fortier said he was told by a representative of that office that the office couldn’t address the complaint because of “pending litigation” regarding Conomo Point house ownership and the town’s assessment figures.

Now that those cases have been decided, however, the status of the complaint — or even if it being investigated — remains unknown.

A spokesman for state Inspector General Jack Meyers said Wednesday that, as in most other cases, the office does not respond to questions regarding the status of a complaint.

“Because of the confidentially requirements of our statute, we can’t respond to questions we’ve received about a complaint,” he said.

It was in February that Fortier filed the complaints, citing alleged conflicts among special state legislation, town bylaws, town officials and other inconsistencies about the sales of houses that sit on town-owned land in southern Conomo Point.

Fortier contends in his complaint that the installment and sale agreements issued to residents in southern Conomo are actually long-term leases with an option to buy, not a sale.

One agreement states a buyer who makes a deposit of $1,500 is then indebted to the town for $187,500, plus interest, payable over a 30-year period. The agreement indicates for one property — that 360 payments of interest payments of $546.88 will be made to the town.

“(But) what is labeled as ‘interest’ is actually the monthly cost of the lease, a number arrived at by multiplying the land only value by (3.5 percent),” Fortier wrote in his complaint.

The agreement also states that the buyer is given the right to purchase the property for the 2012 appraisal price as long as the deposit is made. The buyer is eligible to purchase the property for the length of the agreement — 30 years.

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