NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

October 8, 2013

Bankruptcy filing stymies effort to take home

SALISBURY — On the last day the court gave her to pay about $251,000 in back taxes or face losing her North End property, Gracemarie Tomaselli filed for bankruptcy, putting at least a temporary hold on the town’s ability to take the property.

According to a Sept. 30 letter sent to town treasurer Christine Caron by Tomaselli’s attorney Kevin Lawless, Tomaselli filed a voluntary petition under Chapter 7 of the federal Title 11 bankruptcy code with Massachusetts’ U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

“Pursuant to 11 U.S.C, 362, an automatic stay is now in effect,” Lawless wrote, “and accordingly all judicial proceedings and any attempt to collect a debt, obtain a judgement or take any action whatsoever against Ms. Tomaselli must now cease.”

The bankruptcy filing comes after an order issued by state Land Court Judge Gordon H. Piper on Aug. 2, giving Gracemarie and her sister Joyce Tomaselli until Sept. 30 to pay $250,889 in back property taxes, sewer charges, interest and legal fees or lose their properties at 113-115 North End Blvd. to the town.

Also on Sept. 30, Lawless sent a “Suggestion of Bankruptcy” to the state Land Court, serving notice that Tomaselli filed for protection under the federal bankruptcy code, putting the automatic stay on all judicial proceedings in the case.

The dispute between the town and the Tomaselli sisters goes back to 1991, after they purchased their property and established a restaurant there. The issue is a long-standing complaint by the Tomasellis who claim they never knew about the sewer betterment and other sewer fees on the property. The issue has led to the tax dispute and a number of unsuccessful lawsuits they filed against the town, including a current suit in Boston federal court.

After years-worth of unpaid local fees, in 2006 town officials filed with the state’s Land Court to take the property for non-payment of taxes, sewer-related charges and accrued interest.

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