Difficult to defend Madison County

July 8, 2013 

Isn't this rich? Madison County, known as the class-action capital of America, now has to defend itself against several class-action lawsuits.

The county is being sued by both tax buyers who profited handsomely from the tax auctions run by former Treasurer Fred Bathon, and the delinquent taxpayers who suffered financially as a result of those auctions.

The taxpayer lawsuit names, among others, Madison County Chairman Alan Dunstan and Circuit Clerk Mark Von Nida regarding Bathon's tax auctions, which resulted in sky-high interest rates for delinquent property taxpayers. In response, State's Attorney Tom Gibbons said the plaintiffs don't have any facts to back up the allegations in the lawsuit, that other county officials didn't have an obligation to stop Bathon, and anyway, how could they because this conspiracy "took place under cover of darkness."

The plaintiffs do have at least one major fact on their side: Bathon pleaded guilty in federal court to bid rigging.

Maybe his fellow Democrats didn't have a legal obligation to stop him, but they likely knew what was going on, and it's disappointing that they didn't stop him. This conspiracy didn't take place in darkness; it was right out in the open. When Frank Miles took over after Bathon's retirement, he quickly changed the tax sale procedures and tried to distance himself from Bathon.

The tax buyers' lawsuits involve the post-Bathon 2012 tax auction, which was invalidated because of a procedural mistake. The tax buyers are just looking to profit some more at the public's expense.

We don't know if the taxpayers will prevail in court, but they do have a legitimate beef with the county.

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