My New Friend Mallia Marie

Posted October 15th, 2007 by Joe Kaiser

She’d one day fight a battle of her own, a survivor of breast cancer now going on five years.

Dear Rob,

I spoke with a really wonderful gal from California this evening. It was a lovely chat.

She’s 79, living on social security and just barely getting by on the $1,100 a month she brings in. Still, she has this amazing spirit about her I found remarkable.

And, she’s got quite a story.


A wonderful life

She’d loved her husband.

Sadly, he died awhile ago, a victim of Gillian Berré Syndrome. She tells me it’s a form of polio.

He’d been a craftsman, an engraver of national repute whose work can be seen in the Smithsonian. Mallia says of his amazing talent, “it’s all in the wrist.”

When clients learned of his disease and his inability to continue working, they agreed there would be no one to replace him.

No one could replace him – he was just that good.


together forever

They would have been married 60 years last December, in love since he first walked her home from choir practice at their local Methodist church.

Her family had come from Tulsa, his, from a small town in Oregon, and somehow, in California, two school kids found each other and fell in love.

She said they’d had a wonderful life together, but that it wasn’t always easy.

He’d been shipped off to war and spent three years overseas, a soldier in the US Army during WWII, fighting for his country in Germany.

She’d one day fight a battle of her own, a survivor of breast cancer now going on five years.


news to Mallia

It was one of those conversations I never expected, and a joy to experience. Such a great lady, so many wonderful stories, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the news I’d called to deliver.

You see, there was another chapter to add to her amazing life, and my job to tell it . . .

On December 6, 1996, Eize and Mallia Marie lost their property in Pierce County, Washington, in a tax foreclosure auction for the non-payment of property taxes.

This was news to her.

Her son, responsible for the tax payments, had apparently failed to pay and in doing so, failed to let them know.


bidders went crazy

Mallia Marie remembers the property as beautiful beyond words, some 20 acres on Fox Island overlooking the Puget Sound.

They’d bought it many years earlier when the owner, a local church desperately in need of a new roof, let them pay for that roof as a down payment for the property.

And they never missed a payment thereafter, sending the church $100 a month for many years to follow.

She hadn’t seen the property in a long time, but she let me know she’d never forget its breathtaking views of the water. Perhaps that’s why, on that Friday morning in Tacoma, bidders at the auction went crazy.

When the dust finally settled and bidding came to a close, $162,026.14 in overage, the amount bid over and above the taxes they owed, was created.


the applicable law

In the event no claim for the excess is received by the county treasurer within three years after the date of the sale he or she shall at expiration of the three year period deposit such excess in the current expense fund of the county which shall extinguish all claims by any owner to the excess funds.— Revised Code of Washington 84.64.080


later . . .

Mallia says she never knew what happened to their Fox Island land.

She doesn’t recall being told about the tax foreclosure sale or the overage that resulted. She thinks her son might have received notice, if there was notice, but she can’t be sure.

I don’t know what happened either, but what I am sure of is that three years later, when Mallia Marie failed to make a claim for the excess funds, that money escheated to Pierce County.

All $162,026.14 of it.


Insignificant?

Your office, Rob, has characterized overage funds escheating to counties as “insignificant.”

Try telling that to Mallia Marie, now devastated to learn she’s lost what amounts to her life savings.

And if it truly is insignificant, do you suppose Pierce County might be willing to give the money back?

I don’t suggest you try holding your breath.


We’re not worthy

And by the way, Rob, that’s how the pros work an “overage play.”

Hey, I’m more than happy to concede that Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Bob Dick is, unquestionably, the Tiger Woods of tax sale overage plays. He’s earned the title, hands-down.

And that $162,026.14 windfall that went to the county?

I gotta tell ya, that was a thing of beauty.

Whoo-freakin’-hoo!


How hard can it be?

I’m sure Mallia Marie would love to hear from Pierce County.

No, really, give her a call, Bob, and let her know of the effort you folks made to tell her about the $162,026.14 you were holding for her.

She won’t be difficult to find (it took me 3 whole minutes).

Psssst . . . she’s in the phonebook.

In the arena,

Joe Kaiser


8 Responses to: “My New Friend Mallia Marie”

  1. spyboy responds:
    Posted: October 15th, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    Greetings,

    Good post Joe.

    Now that is a great subject for a public records request.

    Please provide copies of all notices sent to Mallia Marie in effort to locate to notice her of overage funds available and due her. Please provide all records available indicating actions made to locate Mallia Marie in order to notice her of overage funds due her. Etc.

    Thank you.
    SpyBoy

  2. Vlad responds:
    Posted: October 16th, 2007 at 9:30 am

    There are reports, given in condition of anonymity, for frequent visits to the AG’s office building in the past several months by a local plumbing contractor…

    The problem? Sewer lines clogged by….BRICKS!

  3. HSI responds:
    Posted: October 16th, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    The truth will set you free, Joe, and we can only hope that AG Rob and his staff will step up and do the right thing before this all goes out widespread to the public, costing the Washington State taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars that should be used pursuing real consumer fraud.

    Cut everyone’s losses now, and let it be a good lesson learned for all involved to protect these escheating funds from getting cheated from their rightful owners, whether they be long time or newly purchased title holders.

    That way it gets resolved and the original owners aren’t left uninformed or without any profit whatsoever.

  4. HSI responds:
    Posted: October 16th, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    P.S. You’d think the counties would prefer to get these overage funds off their books faster. Some of these WA counties treat it as if it’s their own money, or their bonuses are affected by fat county coffers!

  5. Joe Kaiser responds:
    Posted: October 16th, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    The law is the law, and as you can see above in the statute I’ve included, it’s three years before those funds are no longer at risk of being claimed by the owner.

    You may want to read that again, the “at risk” part, I mean.

  6. spyboy responds:
    Posted: October 16th, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    Greetings,

    While the statute of limitations is three years for claiming such overages/surplus proceeds, there are duties and obligations imposed on the counties in this statutory scheme. While I’m no attorney ( or lawyer, or esquire ) I’m imagining that if the counties failed in their duties, there may be ( meaning the judicial branch may come to determine ) that such a time limitation may be negated, as a matter of equity.

    I’ve heard somewhere about a doctrine of “equitable recoupment”.
    I wonder ?

    Thank You.
    SpyBoy

  7. Loya responds:
    Posted: October 16th, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    This is a crying shame. Shame on all those involved! Of course, not you, Joe. This is a “taking” and any normal person will see what this is all about——-follow the money. Counties and AG, if you have ears, use them. This woman is crying.

  8. Davido responds:
    Posted: October 19th, 2007 at 8:48 am

    Joe, you did a delightful job of story telling with this post. Very nice. I agree with Loya, that what occurred here is a “taking”. And it seems to me that Spy Boy is right that there may be an equitable arguement, and/or a tolling of the statutory time limits. Especially, if the County can be shown to have failed its requirements.

    To your knowledge has there ever been a challenge to the Washington escheatment statute on US Constitutional grounds? Such a challenge may be worth making on both substantive due process (the result is plainly inequitable) and procedural Due Process grounds (the notification process didn’t meet the minimum requirements of the US Constitution). Seems to me that Mallia Marie’s case has the earmarks to become a good test case for any Attornery willing to take it on.


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