Fulton County

Smullen survives Assessment Board removal vote

Residency questioned
Robert Smullen addresses the Johnstown Town Board on Monday evening.
Robert Smullen addresses the Johnstown Town Board on Monday evening.

JOHNSTOWN — An attempt to remove state Assembly candidate Robert Smullen from the town’s Board of Assessment Review over questions about a property tax exemption on his home was voted down by the Town Board 3-1 Monday night.

Town Board member Don Vanduesen introduced the resolution to remove Smullen. He said he believes Smullen is improperly receiving a military combat veteran tax exemption on a property that includes multiple dwellings in the town of Johnstown. Vanduesen, a retired Gloversville police chief, said he believes Smullen’s tax exemption, as currently applied, is in violation of the law.

“Tomorrow, being Grievance Day, I don’t believe he should be sitting in judgment of others’ assessments until this issue is cleared up. I believe the town of Johnstown is owed money for the time period when Mr. Smullen did not reside in the town of Johnstown and was at his home in the town of Niskayuna,” Vanduesen said.

Smullen, a candidate in the Republican Party primary for the 118th Assembly District, has been accused by his primary opponents Patrick Vincent, of Cold Brook, and Philip Paige, of Madrid, of not really living in the town of Johnstown.

The Daily Gazette reported on May 3 that Smullen, a retired Marine Corps. colonel, had been receiving a primary-residence combat veteran property tax exemption applied to both his homes — one in Niskayuna and the other in Johnstown, for a period of about two years.

After the report, Smullen removed the property tax exemptions in Niskayuna and paid the town, county and school district back about $4,437.

Vanduesen said he thinks Smullen owes Johnstown money too.

“I can show through my just half investigation, based on what I’ve been able to find, at least a five-month period where Mr. Smullen did not live in the town of Johnstown. In the residence where Smullen was allegedly was living, it was rented out, and there was no [certificate of occupancy] on the new place [he was building]. That means he can’t be a resident here,” Vanduesen said.

Smullen denied that he was ever not a resident of Johnstown. He said he’s been registered to vote at his parent’s residence 307 Willie Road for years and he has always legally resided in the town of Johnstown.

“This is part of a longstanding, politically motivated series of attacks since I announced my candidacy for the 118th Assembly District. It has become very clear and very evident that my opponents are driving this narrative that I’ve done something that is disqualifying me from either being a resident or being eligible to run for the 118th Assembly District, and this is patently false,” he said.

Smullen said he made a mistake when he applied for a primary residence tax exemption for the properties in Johnstown and Niskayuna because he did not understand that was not allowed under the law.

“I literally wouldn’t have done it, if I had known what I know now,” he said.

Smullen accused Vanduesen of attacking him for political reasons, but Vanduesen denied it.

Town Board member Walt Lane seconded a motion by Vanduesen to remove Smullen from the Board of Assessment Review, but ultimately voted against it. Smullen said that his four children attend the Niskayuna Central School District because the district offers a special education program that is helpful to their son. He said they attend the school district not as residents of the district, but because he owns property within the district, and he does not pay tuition for them to attend Niskayuna. However, he would not clarify where they reside.

“Our family home is in the town of Johnstown. This is a very private family matter that has been well-ventilated in the press,” Smullen said. Lane said he believes it would be a mistake to remove Smullen, in part because to do so would leave the Board of Assessment Review without the necessary number of members to have a quorum. Lane then made a public statement about the need for more people to volunteer to fill out the town’s boards.

Town Board member Daryl Baldwin and Supervisor Jack Wilson also voted in favor of keeping Smullen on the Board of Assessment Review.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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