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Judge overrules contempt motion against Clay Co. revenue collector.

Byline: Jessica Shumaker

A judge has overruled a motion for contempt which alleged that Clay County's collector of revenue disobeyed an order from an appellate court.

On Jan. 15, Judge Louis Angles entered an order in favor of Collector Lydia McEvoy, following a two-day contempt hearing in Liberty the prior week. In addition to being an elected official, McEvoy is a licensed attorney.

The hearing involved the case of Joel and Dawn Yoest, Kansas City residents whom McEvoy previously banned from participating in the county's 2016 tax sale and any future tax sales. McEvoy accused the Yoests, who purchase distressed homes to rehab them and then flip or rent the properties, of wrongdoing.

While Angles initially upheld McEvoy's decision to ban the Yoests from the tax sales, the Western District Court of Appeals overturned it in an October 2017 ruling. The Western District ordered McEvoy to allow the couple to participate in the sales as long as they remain qualified bidders.

In their contempt motion, the Yoests alleged the county once again barred them from participating in the 2018 tax sale, in violation of the Western District's order. They also sought a fine of $20,000 against McEvoy.

Jonathan Sternberg of Kansas City represented the Yoests. He said judges have wide discretion to deny requests for contempt, and they may have many reasons for doing so.

"We had hoped that he would agree that based on the evidence, that the collector had not done what the Court Of Appeals had ordered and permitted my clients to go to the tax sale despite the fact that they qualified under the statute," Sternberg said. "He, for whatever reason, opted to deny our request."

Kevin Corlew of Shook, Hardy & Bacon and Patricia Hughes, assistant Clay County counselor, represented McEvoy in the proceeding.

Corlew said he thought Angles' ruling "was consistent with the law and the facts of the case."

"Ms. McEvoy did not ban the Yoests from participating in the tax sale," he said. "They were able to participate under the same rules and procedures as everyone else. Ultimately, they did not timely complete the registration process that was the same for everyone, therefore they could not bid."

The hearing focused on changes county officials put in place ahead of the 2018 sale, which included requiring bidders to register in advance with the collector's office and with a website that was facilitating the sale, civicsource.com.

Joel Yoest testified that he completed and submitted his registration through the collector's website in time to meet the deadline, and that he received an email from the collector's office confirming his registration the following day.

He said he was unable to bid during the day of the auction, however, because he had not also registered with civicsource.com and had not provided a bank account to the website by the same day he was required to register with the county.

His wife also was not able to bid in the tax sale. Deputy Collector Barbara Peck testified that the collector's office was unable to verify Dawn Yoest's registration because she did not submit additional requested information in time to meet the registration deadline.

The Yoests maintained that Joel Yoest was registered for the tax sale. They also argued that the Western District's order required the county to allow them to participate as long as they were Missouri residents and were not delinquent on their taxes.

County officials, however, argued that the Yoests did not meet the registration requirements and thus were ineligible to participate.

Angles' decision represents the end of the line for the Yoests' contempt case in Clay County, but they are mounting another case against McEvoy and Clay County in federal court.

The couple filed suit in August in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, raising civil-rights and civil-conspiracy claims against McEvoy and Clay County, as well as Ray County, Ray County Collector Julie Chowning, Pettis County and Pettis County Collector Marsha Boeschen.

They accused the three officials and their counties of illegally blocking them from participating in those counties' tax sales. They also accused McEvoy of defamation, claiming she made false statements about the Yoests to Chowning and Boeschen.

The case is Yoest et al. v. Lydia McEvoy, 16CY-CV07141.

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Publication:Missouri Lawyers Media
Date:Jan 28, 2019
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