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January 17, 2013

ANDREW TOBIAS

Staff Writer

Saying they are too strapped for time to do it themselves, two Delaware County elected officials have hired people to sit on the Delaware County Board of Revisions, the government body through which people can contest their appraised property value.

One of the “new” employees is no stranger to Delaware County government — Treasurer Jon Peterson has hired his retired predecessor, Dale Wilgus, 67, for a part-time job in his office. Wilgus retired in 2009 after serving more than 20 years as Delaware County treasurer.

Wilgus’s pay is $29.50 an hour, although his hours will be infrequent — he only worked 6.5 hours during his first pay period. The board of revisions, headed up by county auditor George Kaitsa, meets sporadically, ranging anywhere from seven hours to 20 hours plus a week.

The other employee, hired by Kaitsa, is Tony Frissora, 50, a former longtime deputy in the Franklin County Auditor’s Office. Frissora will make a $54,600 annual salary (based on a 35-hour work week.) In contrast to Wilgus, Frissora’s duties will extend beyond merely sitting on the revisions board — he will also work behind the scenes with property owners throughout the year, Kaitsa said.

The revision board is made up of Kaitsa, Peterson and Delaware County Commissioner Tommy Thompson.

Both Wilgus and Frissora will fill newly-created positions.

Commissioners have no plans to hire a new employee to sit in on the revisions board for Thompson, spokeswoman Teri Morgan said.

“If he needs an alternate (because of a scheduling conflict), he would use the county administrator (Tim Hansley), or the assistant county administrator (Letha George),” Morgan said.

Peterson and Kaitsa each cited similar reasons for the hires. A big factor is the explosion of property valuation complaints — property owners filed more than 2,100 complaints this year, about five times more than were filed in 2008.

Peterson said his office has also been strained following the retirement earlier this year of a treasurer’s employee, and the seasonal spike in work volume associated with tax collection. He decided to hire Wilgus to work sporadically, rather than bring in a full-time employee, he said.

“It’s hard to imagine there would be anyone else out there in the public that would be more qualified than him,” Peterson said.

When tax collections slow down, Peterson said he will resume his seat on the revisions board.

Meanwhile, Kaitsa views Frissora’s hiring as indicative of more of a sea change. More and more people are contesting their property valuation, which is used to calculate property taxes. He expects this to continue until the real estate market begins to recover, which could take years.

Frissora will meet with property owners before the board hearings. If the two sides can reach an agreement, he will submit a list of recommendations that the revisions board would effectively rubber stamp, Kaitsa said.

“Hopefully that will help us get through the backlog of cases we have,” Kaitsa said.

Kaitsa, a Republican, said Frissora will bring years of knowledge to his office. Kaitsa recruited Frissora for the unposted position, interviewing no one else after receiving a copy of Frissora’s resume.

“I talked with (Mingo), asked him about Tony and got very good marks on his work ethics and experience,” Kaitsa said.

Frissora spent 19 years under Republican Franklin County Auditor Joe Testa and Clarence Mingo, both Republicans, serving briefly as interim Franklin County Auditor after Testa’s retirement. He is the cousin of U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Genoa Township).

Frissora left Mingo’s office under controversial terms earlier this year. He resigned his position as Mingo’s chief of staff after it was revealed he was in a romantic relationship with a subordinate employee.

“Individuals in leadership in my office are aware that relationships with subordinates are improper,” Mingo told the Columbus Dispatch at that time. “This is a very serious issue, and I’m sure he understood the gravity of what has occurred. I think he did the responsible thing by resigning.”

Kaitsa said he discussed the situation with Frissora, and with Mingo, who gave a positive reference.

“The bottom line is, I think he made a mistake with his personal life, and he’s working to repair that damage,” Kaitsa said. “But I don’t think that affects his ability to be a valuable employee here in Delaware County.”

When asked, Kaitsa also said Frissora’s relation to Tiberi did not factor into his decision to hire him in any way.