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Marysville Exempted Village School District Board of Education v. Union County Board of Revision

Supreme Court of Ohio

July 17, 2013

Marysville Exempted Village School District Board of Education, Appellee,
v.
Union County Board of Revision et al., Appellees; Connolly Construction Company, Appellant.

Submitted April 23, 2013

Appeal from the Board of Tax Appeals, Nos. 2011-K-4087 through 2011-K-4096.

Britton, Smith, Peters & Kalail Co., L.P.A., Karrie Marie Kalail, and Paul J. Deegan, for appellee Marysville Exempted Village School District Board of Education.

Luper, Neidenthal & Logan, Luther L. Liggett Jr., and David M. Scott, for appellant.

Per Curiam.

{¶ 1} This real property tax case presents an issue of the jurisdiction of the boards of revision: Does a valuation complaint validly invoke jurisdiction when the property owner is a corporate entity and the complaint was prepared and filed by a salaried employee of the entity who is neither an officer nor a lawyer?

{¶ 2} In this case, ten valuation complaints were filed by a salaried employee on behalf of Connolly Construction Company as the property owner. In each case, the Union County Board of Revision ("BOR") apparently ordered a decrease in value, after which the Marysville Exempted School District Board of Education ("school board") appealed to the Board of Tax Appeals ("BTA"). The school board asked the BTA to order that the original complaints be dismissed in each case because the complaints were allegedly signed by a salaried employee of the corporation who is not himself a lawyer, but who nonetheless purported to act on behalf of the corporate owner. In support, the school board cited Sharon Village Ltd. v. Licking Cty. Bd. of Revision, 78 Ohio St.3d 479, 678 N.E.2d 932 (1997), and Worthington City School Dist. Bd of Edn. v. Franklin Cty Bd of Revision, 85 Ohio St.3d 156, 707 N.E.2d 499 (1999). While acknowledging that R.C. 5715.19(A)(1) now explicitly authorizes salaried corporate employees to file on behalf of the corporate owner, the school board argued that the statute cannot be given effect because that kind of filing constitutes the unauthorized practice of law.

{¶ 3} On September 25, 2012, the BTA issued a consolidated decision granting the school board's motion. The BTA ordered that the appeals be remanded to the BOR to be dismissed for want of jurisdiction. Connolly Construction has appealed, and we now reverse the BTA.

{¶ 4} Because the BTA erroneously ordered dismissal, the valuation complaints have not received a determination on the merits from the BTA. We therefore remand to the BTA for further proceedings.

Facts

{¶ 5} The record in this case is sparse. The BTA has certified the transcript of its proceedings to this court pursuant to R.C. 5717.04, but that record does not contain any affidavits or testimony. Moreover, the transcript from the BOR that would ordinarily be certified to the BTA pursuant to R.C. 5717.01 and included in the record before this court is absent. Accordingly, the record does not contain the actual valuation complaints at issue or any other evidence bearing on the jurisdictional issue.

{¶ 6} What the record does contain is the school board's motion to dismiss filed at the BTA and Connolly Construction's memorandum in opposition. The motion asserts that "[t]he person who filed the complaints is only a salaried employee of the company, not the owner or a corporate officer with a fiduciary duty to the company. Likewise, [the filer] is not an attorney and signing and filing the complaints was improper as an unauthorized practice of law." The memorandum in opposition does not dispute those facts; instead, the memorandum argues that (1) the filing by the salaried employee was proper because the complaint is a fact affidavit and the employee is the person with knowledge, (2) R.C. 5715.19(A)(1) as amended in 1999 specifically permits a salaried employee of a corporate property owner to file on behalf of the owner, and (3) the BTA has no authority to decline to apply the statute on constitutional grounds.

{¶ 7} In its September 25, 2012 decision, the BTA observed that the BOR had failed to certify the transcript of its proceedings, yet held that the record was "adequate to resolve [the school board's] motion." Marysville Exempted Village School Dist. Bd. of Edn. v. Union Cty. Bd of Revision, BTA Nos. 2011-K-4087 through 2011-K-4096, 2012 WL 4766420, *1, fn. 1 (Sept. 25, 2012). The complaints had been "prepared and filed on behalf of Connolly Construction by its employee, John R. Connolly, " who was neither a lawyer and nor an officer. Id. at *1.

{¶ 8} Relying on McDonald's Corp. v. Union Cty. Bd of Revision, 2012-Ohio-3751, 974 N.E.2d 133 (3d Dist), appeal accepted 133 Ohio St.3d 1489, 2012-Ohio-5459, 978 N.E.2d 909, the BTA concluded that salaried employees who are not lawyers could not be authorized to file a complaint on behalf of the ...


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