Volume 5 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 88
Board of Assessment Review (composition)(town supervisor) - Real Property Tax Law, § 1524:
A town supervisor may not serve on the town board of assessment review. The board of assessment review should not acquiesce in the supervisor’s participation at the grievance day hearings or during the board’s deliberations since to do so would indirectly make the supervisor a member of the board.
Our opinion has been requested as to whether a town supervisor is empowered to officially sit and act for the board of assessment review on grievance day in hearing complaints and whether he has any authority to join the board of assessment review in its deliberations upon such complaints.
Section 1524 of the Real Property Tax Law, which governs the composition, powers and duties of the board of assessment review, is designed to provide property owners with an objective, independent administrative review of their assessments. Subdivision 1 of said section is designed to insure such independence by specifically prohibiting the appointment to the review board of the assessor or any member of his staff, and by further providing that a majority of the board shall consist of members who are not officers or employees of the local government.
Subdivision 2 of said section confers the exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine complaints to the board of assessment review. The only public officer who is granted the statutory right to be heard on any complaint and have his remarks recorded in the minutes is the assessor.
While it would be proper for the board of assessment review to request the attendance of the town attorney at hearings and during their deliberations for consultation with respect to legal matters, it would be highly improper for anyone not a member of the board to hold himself out as a member thereof or to otherwise subvert the authority of the board or destroy its independence thereby defeating the purpose of said section 1524.
We have previously held that, since town boards appoint boards of assessment review, a town board member is not eligible to serve thereon because of the common law doctrine that a board with appointing power cannot appoint one of its own members to office, and that any such appointment would be void on broad grounds of public policy (1 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 85; Wood v. Town of Whitehall, 120 Misc. 124, 197 N.Y.S. 789, aff’d, 206 App. Div. 786, 201 N.Y.S. 959; 25 Op.State Compt. 276). Since the town supervisor is, by statute, a member of the town board (Town Law, § 60), he would not be eligible to serve on the board of assessment review. If the board of assessment review were to acquiesce in his participation at the public hearings and during the deliberations, it would be a party to allowing the town supervisor to do indirectly that which he could not legally do directly.
Accordingly, only duly appointed members of the board of assessment review may conduct hearings on complaints and make determinations with respect thereto.
June 29, 1976