Company extorted by ex-Scranton mayor faces competition for Luzerne County tax claims

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - [email protected]
Luzerne County Courthouse Luzerne County Courthouse -

Plains Township-based Northeast Revenue Service LLC faces competition from three other companies to handle Luzerne County’s tax claim collections, county Chief Solicitor Romilda Crocamo said Monday.

The county sought proposals, which were due June 28, because Northeast Revenue’s contract expires the end of this year.

Northeast Revenue is now in the limelight because the company was among the vendors pressed to pay a bribe to former Scranton mayor William Courtright, who pleaded guilty to three federal corruption charges last week, court records show.

A spokesman for Northeast Revenue said company representatives have fully cooperated with investigators and that none have been charged with any unlawful acts.

The three other companies that submitted proposals to oversee county tax claim, according to Crocamo: Jordan Tax Service, Linebarger Attorneys-at-Law and Ability Recovery Services.

County Manager C. David Pedri has said a committee will review the proposals and make a recommendation to council.

Based on a review of the companies’ websites:

Jordan Tax Service Inc. is based in McMurray near Pittsburgh. Founded in 1932, the company offers revenue collection services to Pennsylvania government entities and currently has more than 85 clients, including municipalities, authorities, 30 school districts and Allegheny County.

Linebarger is affiliated with Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson LLP, a national law firm with a practice dedicated to the collection of delinquent government receivables for more than 40 years. The company has offices in Harrisburg and Philadelphia.

Ability Recovery Services is a national collection agency owned and operated by a family that has been in the collection industry for more than 30 years. The company has an in-house legal department, handles collections in all 50 states and has a local office in Dupont.

Northeast Revenue has been running the tax claim office since May 2010, when prior commissioners determined privatizing the operation would cut expenses and improve collections. County council renewed the contract in 2014.

The company has been credited with turning around the office, which had been criticized for not enforcing mandates and allowing some politically connected defaulters to keep their properties out of auctions with no legal justification.

The next contract will include the option for two extensions, bringing the total term to five years. Because the work is a professional service, the county is not required to seek the lowest price and can consider factors such as a company’s experience, the quality of its personnel and services offered.

In addition to collecting delinquent real estate taxes, the operator must auction properties owned by defaulters.

Northeast Revenue is paid primarily through a 5 percent penalty added to overdue school and municipal taxes collected by the county as allowed by law. The county pays nothing out of pocket, officials have said.

Luzerne County Courthouse County Courthouse

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

[email protected]

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.