Mower to back Hennepin County’s Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac lawsuit

Published 10:30am Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mower County will support Hennepin County in a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Minnesota’s 87 counties in August against mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

County Attorney Kristen Nelsen said the lawsuit comes from the companies’ refusal to pay a deed tax. The county decided to back Hennepin at Tuesday’s board meeting.

While the companies believe they are exempt from the tax, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman is leading the charge to see that money come back to the county.

“All of us, when we sell our homes, have to pay the deed tax,” Freeman said at a news conference in August. “Fannie and Freddie were not much in the business of buying and selling houses. But when the housing crisis hit, they got into selling big time.”

The suit has been filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, and seeks more than $10 million in unpaid taxes, according to an August news release.

Nelsen recommended Mower County not opt-out of the case because it stands to bear no financial burden, win or lose.

“For us, it’s essentially free money,” she said.

If Hennepin loses, Mower will not need to pay anything. If it wins, 10 percent of any winnings Mower receives will go to Hennepin to help cover legal fees, Nelsen said.

A new county assessor

During the meeting, the board also moved to have human resources begin the search for a new county assessor. The previous assessor, Rich Peterson, resigned Sept. 4 after more than six years with the county. He oversaw the reappraisal of all commercial properties in the county earlier this year.

“The most important requirement is public relations,” said Commissioner Jerry Reinartz. “The ability to communicate with the public in a cordial way is important.”

Commissioners will decide whether to check candidates writing skills by means of a test sent in advance or to gauge their speaking abilities through an oral presentation with little prior notice, said County Coordinator Craig Oscarson.

Peterson did not previously return calls for comment as to reasons for his resignation.

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