Cleveland Public Utilities Director can't recall key water revenue raised by tax liens on homes

Water bills placed on home as tax liens
Posted at 10:35 PM, Jan 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-11 07:15:55-05

Cleveland's Director of Public Utilities admits he cannot recall exactly how much revenue is raised by the water department through an aggressive policy of collecting water bills by slapping tax liens on customers' homes.

Public Utilities Director Robert L. Davis is ultimately responsible for policies within the Cleveland Division of Water that has slapped more than 8-thousand tax liens on customers homes over a recent three-year period.

"I'm not sure," said Davis, "I can't give you a number right now."

It's a policy that has raised questions by both the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and prominent housing experts over concerns that tax liens for water bills can contribute to homeowners losing their homes and increased foreclosures.

In addition, homeowners have complained in News 5 Investigative reports that they were never even told tax liens had been placed on their homes until their monthly mortgage skyrocketed to cover increased monthly mortgage payments.

Even so, when asked, Davis was unable to recall how much revenue has been raised leaving open questions about just how successful the tax lien policy has been.

News 5 Investigators questioned Davis before the start of Monday's Cleveland City Council meeting where concerns over the water department were raised by longtime Council Member  Michael Polensek.

"We've got major problems in the division of water," Polensek warned council, "people are losing their homes over monstrous water bills -elderly people, people on fixed incomes."

"It's unconscionable," said Polensek, who also raised questions over millions of dollars in consultant contracts for the water department.