Office of the Executive Inspector General finds tax appeals judge failed to report conflict of interest
The Deputy Chief Administrative Law Judge of the state's Property Tax Appeals Board has been counseled after a report from the Office of the Executive Inspector General (OEIG) found she failed to report a conflict of interest.
The office opened an investigation into Katherine Patti following a complaint that she issued favorable decisions to clients represented by the firm Amari & Locallo during a period of time in which Patti's relative was employed by the firm. The complainant also noted that Patti may have helped her relative get hired by the firm, according to the OEIG report.
The OEIG investigation determined that Ms. Patti, who has worked as an administrative law judge with the Property Tax Appeals Board since 1996, had in a three-month period in 2017 ruled in 261 cases brought by Amari & Locallo, and that the firm was handed a favorable ruling in 99 percent of those cases. However, the investigation also noted that in cases Patti was assigned not involving the firm, the appellant also received a favorable ruling 99 percent of the time. Additionally, all Amari & Locallo cases assigned to other judges during that period were decided in favor of the appellant, according to the OEIG report.
In an interview with investigators, Patti stated that she did not assign herself any new cases involving the firm once her relative was hired. However, she also admitted she did not recuse herself from cases involving the firm that had already been assigned to her. Investigators also determined Patti did not report the conflict of interest to her supervisors.
In issuing its ruling, the OEIG determined that Patti violated agency policy by helping her relative gain employment at Amari & Locallo, and by failing to report the conflict to leadership. However, investigators did not find sufficient evidence that Patti issued favorable rulings to Amari & Locallo clients in exchange for the firm employing her relative.
In response to the decision, the Property Tax Appeals Board Acting Executive Director held a counseling session with Patti, and agreed to the OEIG's recommendation that the agency revise its policy on reporting conflicts of interest.