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Investigative Post: City Hall failed to collect $22 million in housing fines

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The City of Buffalo has failed to collect on millions of dollars in housing court fines from property owners.

Investigative Post journalist Jim Heaney says he has learned that City Hall has failed to collect $22 million from property owners who violated housing and health codes.  Heaney traced the delinquent fines back to 2006. 

Heaney said of more than 20 property owners, one fined topped $100,000.

"Not one of those defendants ever paid a dime in Housing Court fines. The folks judged to be the worst property owners just simply ignored the court and the city let them get away with it," Heaney told WBFO and AM 970 News.

"Sometimes these defendants don't even show up for court. Sometimes the defendants pay, but more often than not, they don't. The court, typically after 30 days, files a judgment against the defendant which enables the City of Buffalo to initiate collections proceedings against them," Heaney says.

Heaney says the city treasurer failed to collect those fines, believing the city could not pursue them through collections.  But the city's Corporation Counsel said the city does have the legal ability to seek the collections. 

Heaney says he brought the issue to the attention of City Comptroller Mark Schroeder, who said he is "alarmed" by the situation.  

You can read and watch the Investigative Post story on-line http://www.investigativepost.org/2012/07/18/city-forgoes-millions-housing-fines/.

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