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.
Fortier also claims the houses were unlawfully given as gifts.
He cited an Annual Town Meeting bylaw passed in 2012 that allowed the sale of the southern lots, but called for the town to collect at least the value for each lot “as if vacant ...” as determined by the appraiser.
When the state Attorney General’s office signed off on the bylaw allowing sales in southern Conomo Point, it added the town was not authorized to give current Conomo Point tenants more favorable conditions than anyone else.
“... If the Selectmen had gone on a lawful course and included the value of the buildings in the sale prices the minimum would have been a moot issue,” Fortier wrote in February.
In addition, the value “as if vacant” of Conomo Point lots may not even exist.
Northern Conomo Point plaintiffs challenged the town’s appraisal numbers in court, but Essex County Superior Court Judge Richard Welch III determined that “the vacant lots, i.e. ‘land only’, do not exist,” according to his decision released earlier this month. The judge noted that the properties come as “improved” by the houses.
Welch also took up a home ownership issue in September involving four Conomo Point residents, determining that two tenants owned their houses while two other houses belong to the town.
While one decision was focused on northern appraisal rates at Conomo Point and another on four separate residences, Fortier questioned why his complaint was impacted by pending litigation in the first place.
“The pending litigation,” Fortier added, “had nothing to do with my complaint anyway.”
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at email@example.com.