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Cooke, Town Battle Over Property Visit

By Pam Johnson

Published December 31. 2012 11:18AM   Updated December 31. 2012 11:28AM

In the latest twist in the battle between the Town of Branford and property owned by the family of Wayne Cooke, Branford has requested a court order for permission to enter one of the properties which is being denied farm tax status.

The town has filed a motion to enter the property at 616 East Main St. It is one of several Cooke family properties from which farm tax status was revoked in 2009, with the town claiming no farming activity taking place on the land.  Cooke and the town have been at odds over the matter for several years.

The town's attempt to visit the property in the past was turned back by Cooke because he did not have his attorney present at the time.

An unopened letter sent to Cooke in 2009 by Town Assessor Barbara Neal, stating his appeal for farm tax status restoration had been denied, is at the heart of the latest legal argument. Cooke's attorney claims the letter was never received. The town's attorney claims the letter was returned unopened after not being responded to, sent via registered mail.

Both the town's action and the objection by Cooke's attorney are available to read here.  In a press release issued by Cooke, who also provided copies of both the town action and the objection filed by his attorney, Cooke said, "...“this represents just another example of harassment and incompetence by a dishonest and inept administration. If the assessor was doing her job rather than letting her office be used for a political vendetta, she should have looked at the property before making a decision--not two years later.”

Cooke also points out the action "...comes in the wake of a recent court decision to deny the town's motion to dismiss the Cooke family's tax appeal on the 616 East Main Street property."

This action also comes in the wake of Nov. 2012 filings by Cooke's attorney of a federal lawsuit against First Selectman Anthony "Unk" DaRos and Assessor Barbara Neal alleging civil rights violations with regard to the tax treatment of the property. Cooke also filed a separate slander suit against DaRos in state court, revolving around statements DaRos made against Cooke during a public meeting in July, 2010. The town has since filed a motion asking the state court to remove Cooke's slander suit against DaRos based on missing a filing deadline for the two-year statute of limitations.

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