Volume 5 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 65
Conflict of interest (board of assessment review - tax assessment appraiser) - Real Property Tax Law, § 1524:
It is a conflict of interest for an individual in the business of making tax assessment appraisals within a town to be a member of that town’s board of assessment review.
We have received an inquiry concerning the membership on the board of assessment review of an individual who is soliciting business within the town in the field of “tax assessment appraisals.” We are asked if this constitutes a conflict of interest.
Pursuant to section 1524 of the Real Property Tax Law, the members of the board of assessment review are to have a knowledge of property values in the local government. In relation to the appointment of individuals to the board of assessment review, we have stated:
The mere fact that a person is actively engaged in the real estate business does not disqualify him from appointment to the board of assessment review. Of course, he should disqualify himself from considering a complaint on the assessment of property in which he is personally involved (2 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 1).
The Attorney General has concluded in an opinion that:
The fact that one engages in the contracting business within a city, does not disqualify such person from being an assessor in that city, provided, however, that such person does not participate in the assessment of property upon which he has performed any contracting work (1975, Op.Atty. Gen. 143).
It necessarily follows from the aforementioned opinions that the individual in question should not conduct a “tax assessment appraisal” on a parcel within the town in which he is a member of the board of assessment review. That is, unlike the real estate broker situation in our prior opinion, where only an occasional parcel with which the broker may have been involved may be brought to the attention of the board of assessment review, in the situation herein presented, most, if not all, of the properties appraised for tax assessment purposes will come before the board’s attention. Consequently, it is our opinion that the individual in question should not conduct any “tax assessment appraisals” within the town.
Our conclusion is further buttressed by statute and administrative opinion. It is clear that a member of the board of assessment review is a “municipal officer” within the meaning of subdivision 5 of section 800 of the General Municipal Law, which provides in part as follows:
5. “ Municipal officer or employee” means an officer or employee of a municipality, whether paid or unpaid, including members of any administrative board, commission or other agency thereof . . . .
Section 805-a of such law provides in part as follows:
1. No municipal officer or employee shall:
c. receive, or enter into any agreement, expressed or implied for compensation for services to be rendered in relation to any matter before any municipal agency of which he is an officer, member or employee . . .
In construing this section of law, the State Comptroller has stated:
Because of the absence of any delimiting language in [this] subdivision, we interpret it to prohibit a municipal officer or employee from being paid for any services rendered by him in any capacity to a third person (or firm, corporation, etc.) with respect to such matters which must be reviewed, passed upon, or otherwise brought to the attention of a municipal board or agency with which he has the statutory association (26 Op.State Comp. 150).
The Comptroller then concluded that a professional architect may not be a member of a village board of architectural review when plans prepared by him for a private construction project within the village are submitted to the board for review. The situation presented in this inquiry is clearly analogous to the one presented to the State Comptroller, and we reach a similar conclusion.
Accordingly, it is our opinion that it is a conflict of interest for an individual in the business of making “tax assessment appraisals” within a town to be a member of that town’s board of assessment review. Of course, he may remain on the board if he limits his appraisals to parcels located outside the town in question.
April 30, 1976