The Beaver County Tax Claim Bureau is preparing to auction off dozens of properties owned by a politically influential county vendor. The move follows an investigative report published by the Beaver Countian which first revealed the vendor owed property taxes dating back over two decades that the county never attempted to collect.
A May 29th report by the Beaver Countian showed that Joan Unis, owner of Unis Demolition in Aliquippa, owes approximately $500,000 in unpaid property taxes (including municipal, school, and county tax) originating back to the 1990s.
Following the publication of that report, Chief County Assessor Michael P. Kohlman conducted an investigation into properties owned by Unis which confirmed the Beaver Countian’s findings.
“They’ll soon be getting notice of sale,” Kohlman told the Beaver Countian on Friday. “The notices will be going out in July for an upset tax sale on the 2nd Monday in September.”
Kohlman’s investigation confirmed that the county originally halted collection efforts back in 1992 on 51 properties owned by Joan Unis after she filed for bankruptcy protection. That bankruptcy was closed in 1996 when the courts set up a 72 month payoff plan. But the case was reopened by creditors just months later and converted from a Chapter 11 (reorganization) to a Chapter 7 (liquidation) Bankruptcy.
In March 2003 an outside law firm contracted by the county to monitor bankruptcy cases for the Tax Claims Bureau confirmed the Unis’ case was still active. But they then came out of bankruptcy on September 18th of that same year. According to Michael Kohlman, that is when an error occurred that prevented the county from attempting to take collection actions. “For some reason, we were never noticed that the Unis family came out of bankruptcy, so our collection efforts continued to be halted until [the Beaver Countian] brought the matter to light.”
Kohlman said the Unis family owes back property taxes on 82 separate properties, 31 of which are already in the county repository because collection actions on those parcels occurred before the original bankruptcy was filed. Unis could be given the option of a payment plan to prevent the auctioning of the properties, pending approval by the County Board of Commissioners.
The investigative report by the Beaver Countian triggered a series of public accusations being made between Democratic Commissioner Joe Spanik and Republican Commissioner Dennis Nichols, with both men implying the other may have been receiving kickbacks from various county vendors.
Joan Unis did not return a message left for her by this publication seeking comment.