1986 bought property for vacation and retirement purposes. Had a 10-year mortgage, paid off on time. Taxes were always paid directly to the County offices. Never paid late on taxes.
Changes occurred in fall of 2010 due to injury to Bob Force (right knee meniscus surgery) and increased exacerbation to Donna Force’s MS (vision loss, inability to walk and memory loss).
April 30, 2010 - Paid property taxes on the two original owned parcels, the 97 and 13.68 acres.
June 23, 2010 the .15 parcel was transferred to Forces by Virginia Donato. Taxes were paid prior to transfer.
June 2012 – Went to County offices to pay the 2011 taxes. The clerk of the office refused to accept the 2011 taxes and ONLY would apply payment to the 2012 taxes/current year. (County policy is you must pay the most current year before paying back year’s taxes)
January 2013 – Otsego County commenced instant proceedings seeking foreclosure on 3 parcels for non-payment of taxes related to year 2011. They were granted their request and took possession of the deeds to the 3 parcels. They started these proceedings 16 months before the final due date for the 2013 taxes. The due date is June 30, 2014. Otsego County did NOT have a Board vote or Resolution to sell the property, nor to transfer the Deeds.
July 15, 2014 - 15 days after the tax payment due date of June 30, 2014 Donna Force called Otsego County Treasurer Dan Crowell to pay property taxes for both 2011 and 2013.
He (Crowell) refused to accept back tax payments for 2011 and 2013 taxes. He stated once we missed the June 30th, 2014 deadline he could not stop the foreclosure process. Property was put on the Auction block Aug. 20, 2014 in Oneonta.
The County gave NO consideration that Bob Force was in a health care facility recovering from his first knee replacement nor did they care to accept the letter from Donna Force’s neurologist documenting she suffers from severe memory loss due to MS.
July 16, 2014 - Contacted Attorney Jim Konstany from Oneonta, NY. Konstany was the former Otsego county Attorney. He contacted the Otsego county Treasurer Dan Crowell and Otsego County Attorney Ellen Coccoma to request they accept the back taxes; but was denied on July 18, 2014.
July 16, 2014 – Joe Tyson, a friend of Robert Force, contacted Morris, NY Town Clerk Linda Ewing to contact Otsego County Treasurer Dan Crowell to ask how many years does it take for the County to foreclose on a property in Otsego. Dan Crowell stated it takes 5 yrs to start a foreclosure process. Crowell stated he hates to foreclose on a property but sends certified letters.
July 28, 2014 - Attorney Jim Konstanty started proceedings for an Article 78 to put a stay on the deeds. Forces were informed by Neighbor that NYS Auctions had put a sign on the property and it was listed in this year’s auction catalog.
July 30, 2014 - Faxed proof of payment for 2012 tax information to Attorney Jim Konstanty. Told him the reason why we missed payment of 2011 taxes was due to Bob Force’s surgeries.
July 31, 2014 - Attorney Jim Konstanty called Bob Force at 4:00 PM and requested a copy of the recent foreclosure notice. Sent original tax bill and unpaid taxes for 2011 and 2013. Also sent 2012 paid tax receipt and copy of bankers check for 2012 taxes.
Aug. 5, 2014 - Received fax from Attorney Jim Konstanty regarding temporary hold on property from auction. Property was supposed to be pulled from August 2014 auction.
Aug. 6, 2014 - Received notice from Attorney Jim Konstanty to be at the Otsego county court in Cooperstown, NY on Aug. 18, 2014 at 8:30 AM. 197 Main St. Cooperstown, NY.
Aug. 11, 2014 - Talked to Jim Konstanty about which back taxes were owed.
Aug, 18, 2014 - Went to Otsego County Court at 8:30 AM, Judge Burns presiding. He questioned Otsego County Attorney why the county would not let the Force’s pay their back taxes. He also asked Attorney how much back taxes the Force’s owed. Otsego County Attorney Ellen Coccoma had no answers for Judge Burns. County Attorney asked if she could get back to judge by 3:00 PM. Because the County Attorney was ill prepared, why wasn’t the case thrown out of court? Judge Burns ordered the County Attorney to make an announcement at the Auction that there was a stay on the convenience on the deeds & that the property was in litigation. By order of the County, the Forces gave their Attorney a check for $21,989.11 to be put into escrow. This was the first time in the history of Otsego County. The Forces owed approximately $13,000 in back taxes for 2011 and 2013.
Aug. 20, 2014 (Day of Auction) - Attorney Jim Konstanty had a stay put on the convenience of the deeds. The property was still put on the auction block, but the deed could not be transferred. The winning bid price of $45,000 went into escrow while the properties were in litigation. Even though Judge Burns ordered the County Attorney to be present and make an announcement; she did NOT attend the auction. County Board Chair Cathy Clark took it upon herself to put the property on the auction block without a Board vote or resolution.
Nov. 5, 2014 – Attended and spoke at Otsego County Board Meeting to request that my properties be redeemed. Presented Clerk of the Board copies of back taxes and letter from wife’s neurologist confirming Donna’s loss of memory problems due to MS. Force stated he ONLY owed 2011 and 2013 taxes at the time of the auction on Aug, 20, 2014. Several of the Board members, including Rick Hulse asked Force “why are you here? It takes 5 years to foreclose on a property and you can pay on the day of the auction.” Rick Hulse and other Board members did not know that the Forces were in litigation. Otsego County Veterans advocate Jack Hansen also asked the board “ Why aren’t you helping these Veterans? Not even the IRS would have seized their properties like this. “ Otsego County Board went to closed session to vote on property. Member Betty Anne Swcherd stated the board that we should allow Veterans to redeem their properties for their sacrifices and service for our country. Member Swcherd asked for a vote to allow the Forces to redeem their property; the Board voted no. Behind closed doors the Board members made rude comments about the flag Maria Ajello held that day. They also laughed and stated, “What does Mr. Force think by wearing his uniform. Did he (Force) think he would get sympathy from us?”
Feb. 4, 2015 – Spoke at Otsego County Board meeting again asking to redeem the property. County board member Swcherd asked Otsego County Attorney Ellen Coccoma “How many years does it take for Otsego County to foreclose on a property?” County Attorney stated “4 years”. Schwerd corrected her and stated “you mean 4 consecutive yrs. Why did you foreclose on Mr. Force’s property when he only owed his 2011 and 2013 taxes. He paid his 2012 taxes.” County Attorney became frustrated and stated that “We shouldn’t be discussing this due to litigation.” At this meeting the Board passed a resolution to take back a piece of property that was bought at August 20, 2014 auction by Chuck Barranger and return it to the owner who purchased the property 30 years ago and had his this foreclosed on twice without his knowledge. The Treasurer allowed the former owner to only pay 10 years of back taxes prorated.
March 23, 2015 - NYS Appellate Court 3rd Division hearing in Albany, Attended with Attorney Jim Konstanty; Otsego County was represented by Ellen Coccoma. The Judges questioned Ellen Coccoma about the scanners that Otsego County uses for tax purposes. Jim Konstanty told the Judge that the Forces only owed 2 years of back taxes not 3, not 4 years of taxes.
April 5, 2015 - Attorney Jim Konstanty suddenly passed away. Attorney Mike Trossett took over his firm. Force called his office various times to discuss my case, but received no return calls.
May 7, 2015 - The Appellate Court decision was made in favor of Otsego County, NY. Bob Force was not notified by Otsego County nor did not receive a certified court decision.
May 15 2015. Bob Force found the Appellate Court decision on line. He called Attorney Mike Trossett’s office and informed the woman in the office that he had found the court decision on line. She would have Mr. Trossett call Force back.
May 16 2015 – Attorney Mike Trossett called back and said the decision just arrived in office mail. He continued to tell Bob he did not know how to handle his case in the Appellate court. Trossett still took on Maria Ajello’s case regarding the same issue with payment of late taxes to the Appellate court.
May 18, 2015 - Received a return call from Otsego County DA John Muehl. I called him a week prior asking him to ask Dan Crowell how many years of back taxes were owed. DA Muehl stated the Treasurer said you owed taxes 2010, a total of 5 years in arrears. DA Muehl was under the impression that I should have been able to pay my taxes at the day of the auction. He also thought it took 5 years to foreclose on a property.
June, 2015 - Trying to get help outside of Otsego County, Force filed an official complaint with the NYS Attorney General’s office. Their request was denied. Their reason was “at this time, the office did not wish to investigate this issue”. About the same time another resident from Otsego County had filed a report to the Attorney Generals office about aggressive foreclosure issues. The second complaint was logged in just after the Force’s complaint. Both complaints, for the same issue, were denied.
July 1, 2015 – Rick Hulse, Ed Lentz, Cathy Clark and Dan Crowell wanted to transfer the deeds to the bidder, but could not get a full board vote. Betty Ann Schwerd stated “This is the first time she has seen board members and the treasurer be so aggressive in trying to transfer deeds to a property when it is still in litigation.”
August 5, 2015 – County Board members did not take a board vote nor did they have resolution to transfer the Force properties deeds to the bidder. County Board Chair Cathy Clark took it upon herself and issued a quick claim deed to transferred properties to bidder. The document was mailed to the bidder on Friday August 7, 2015. The deed was officially recorded on August 10, 2015. No notification was provided to Forces on lifting the stay on the deeds. Per County land auction procedures, the bidder is required to evict the former owner before moving/entering the property. This did not occur.
August 9, 2015 – The Bidder broke lock on gate, entered property and 3 structures (rental home, trailer and barn), posted private property sign and changed locks on property. Bidder also threw out all of the Forces personal property. The bidder did not evict the Forces (as per County and Auction rules). The Bidder did all of this before the deeds were officially recorded on August 10, 2015. Force called (from LI after report from Neighbor of person on property) NY State Troopers to notify them that a person had cut the lock on the gate and was currently on property. The Forces still had personal property on the premises.
August 10, 2015 – Force spoke with State Trooper Staples (investigator on case) to discuss that the bidder had broken into your property because the deeds were not transferred nor was he given an eviction notice to remove personal property.
August 12, 2015 – Robert Force contacted the treasurer’s office and requested release of escrow funds plus interest.
August 14, 2015 – Contacted by Trooper Staples stated had to make a deposition in person or at a local State Trooper location.
August 17, 2015 – Tried to make deposition with Sergeant O’Gery in Brentwood, NY. Sergeant stated had to speak with Trooper Staples before making statement to confirm case. Sergeant O’Gery informed Force there was nothing they could do. The County took possession of the deeds back in 2013 (16 months prior to actual final payment date for taxes) and trespassing charges could not be enforced. County stated deeds were not in Forces name and deposition would was not taken.
August 19, 2015 – repeat call to County Treasurer’s office regarding release of escrow funds. Was informed they would charge a 2% handling fee.
August 20, 2015 – County issued Check Number 1023, in the amount of $21,604.76, pay to the order of Robert Force and Donna Force. The County Treasurer did NOT sign the check.
August 15, 2015 - R Force met and hired Meir Mosa, Esquire Mosa prepared an additional Article 78, filled with details proving the County’s wrong doing. The purpose was to give the County a chance to bow out gracefully from without any additional litigation.
September 9, 2015 - Plaintiff filed an article 78 petition in NYS Supreme court, Otsego county.
December 2015 - Attorney Mosa met with Attorney Coccoma to discuss the case. Mosa presented copies of checks from property owners who paid their taxes late. In both cases the county backdated the receipt to June 30 for payments received after July 1st. One was dated July 1st and the other was dated August 13. Attorney Coccoma stated and then followed up with a letter that the County would like to negotiate prior to going to United States District Court, Eastern District of New York. Attorney Coccoma stated she was not sure how the she would be able to transfer the properties back to the Forces. However, on February 2015 the County returned a property that was foreclosed on twice and sold at auction without knowledge of the former owner who purchased a property 30 years ago. He, the former owner, was allowed to pay 10 years pro rated back taxes and regain his property.
January 26, 2016 - NYS Supreme Court, Otsego County (Judge Burns) decision was made the Article 78 was dismissed with prejudice on statue of limitation grounds and the Forces received Due Process.
November 1, 2016 - Forces initiated a lawsuit in United States District Court; Eastern District of New York. After several motions to dismiss, threats to apply sanctions against plaintiffs and their counsel, and amended complaints were resolved, the case proceeded into court.
December 7, 2016 – Bob Force attended Otsego County Board meeting. Minutes after he arrived the Otsego County Attorney left the room and shortly thereafter the Otsego County sheriff showed up. The Clerk of the Board read notice into the record of Force Federal Lawsuit. After the clerk finished reading into the record the lawsuit, Force left the board meeting. While standing in hallway with Ajello and Ahrens, the County Treasurer approached Force and in a provocative and intimidating manner stood and stared him down. Crowell did this while the OCS was standing right behind Force. Force did not engage in discussion with the treasurer; he just looked him in the eye, smiled and walked away.
September 30, 2019 - The US District Court, Eastern District of New York, Dona, L. Irizary, Chief US District Judge dismissed, in their entirety as to all defendants, with prejudice, for lack of subject matter jury jurisdiction and county defendant’s motions for sanctions is denied. As no claims remain, county defendants motion to strike the amended complaint for violation of federal rule Procedure 8, is denied as moot. The Judge instructed both parties to return to local courts to resolve this issue. As per Mr. Force’s lawyer, this case is not frivolous as merit, nor is not moot.
November 1, 2017 - Bob Force attended Otsego Board meeting. The night before Force wrote on Facebook, “Pray for my family. Doing a guest appearance at the Otsego County Board Meeting tomorrow and it’s time to drain the swamp in Otsego County.” Before entering the Otsego County Building at 9AM Force was confronted by an Otsego County Court officer who asked him “Mr. Force, how are you feeling today? Are you going to be civil today?” At 9:30, two Otsego County Sheriffs asked him “Do you have any weapons and can we search your vehicle.” Force responded “Do you think I am going to do anything stupid? I have over $60,000 in attorney fees and a sick wife at home in a wheelchair.” Force gave permission to search the truck. The Sheriffs just looked in the windows. The next day AllOtsego Newspaper editor Jim Devlin said he read the Facebook post; there was NO threat given and that Otsego County Attorney had contacted the sheriff’s office saying there is a threat. Later that day (November 1st) Force met with Otsego County DA Muehl , NYS Financial Investigator Sean Ralph, and with Maria Ajello about their foreclosure cases. Force questioned the 5 year foreclosure policy. He reminded DA Muehl that he had told Force it took 5 years to foreclose on properties. Force questioned the amount of monies that the County held in escrow while he was in litigation. DA Muehl stated that the County wouldn’t hold money in escrow and that it had to be in your Attorney’s account. Force informed him of the events surrounding the escrow monies, ordered by Judge Burns and the issues involved with getting a check from the County. Force then stated that he did not receive all of the money he gave his former Attorney, Jim Konstany. DA Muehl stated “You didn’t know that after Jim Konstany passed away it was found that he was skimming money from his clients to support his gambling habits?” DA Muehl stated that they (Muehl and Ralph) have fully investigated the facts and circumstances surrounding the sale of the Force property at the County tax sale and there is insufficient evidence to prosecute. Muehl also stated that it was the sole discretion of the Otsego County Treasurer, Dan Crowell, to sell the property. Force also asked about the Wallace embezzlement case. Force stated he read where Lawrence Woodards friend Kevin Williamson had laundered $25,00 at the bank he worked at, Williamson had to pay back the monies and was charged with only a misdemeanor. Force stated “Don’t you find it ironic that Lawrence Woodards, who worked for the Treasurer’s office, was the same person who gave him (Force) the copies of the checks of property owners who paid their taxes late in 2015 and were allowed to redeem their properties?” Force then asked “Why haven’t you prosecuted Lawrence Woodards?” At that point both NYS Financial Investigator Sean Ralph and DA Muehl became upset and took offence to what Force said and remarked that “he (Woodard) admitted his guilt and will be prosecuted.” Force showed them copies of the paid taxes, but they did not want to see them. Both men came into the meeting without any papers or documents to discuss with Force and Ajello. Their not being prepared or willingness to discuss the facts and issues about the aggressive foreclosures. All of this lead Force to believe that this was yet another wasted meeting.
2018 – The Forces are still in litigation with the County.
April 2018 – Donna Force had a life-changing stroke. Over the next 7 months Robert Force was unable to attend Otsego County Board Meetings. However Maria Ajello and Russell Ahrens attended and spoke at meetings on his behalf.
September 2018 – Robert Force gave a historical review of the Save the Force Farm fight to the new board members. He reviewed the historical bullets.