Richard Oldham, a former mayor of the town of Quartzsite, says he has “no intention” of foreclosing on the Quartzsite church whose tax lien he bought without realizing who the property belonged to.
The church, whose primary ministry is serving meals to the needy, was sent a property tax bill for $50,000 by La Paz County Assessor George Nault in 2009 which was disputed by the church. The church says it is a nonprofit entity, and therefore should be exempt from paying property taxes.
When the church did not pay its bill, the lien was sold at auction to Oldham, who will have the right to initiate foreclosure on the property (and ownership would transfer to him) as early as next month. However Oldham says he will not foreclose.
A lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), an organization set up by Focus on the Family leader Dr. James Dobson and others to fight for church rights, has intervened in the case. At first the ADF asked La Paz County Treasurer Leah Castro to nullify the tax bill to the church. She has the authority to do so only if it transpires that the church was billed wrongly, and – since Nault insists the bill is correct – Castro says she could not intervene.
Sources at La Paz County say that property tax exemptions must be applied for and approved ahead of the tax year and that, if a property owner does not apply in time for such an exemption, it cannot be granted for that year. The Isaiah 58 Project was granted their exemption from 2009 forward, leaving them 3 outstanding years.
A group of churches are currently trying to raise the money to buy the property back from Oldham for the amount he paid for it. Once this is done, a source tell us, the church plans to sue the County. Whether the Alliance Defense Fund intends to supply legal support in that event is not known.