Judge voids deeds, WVNCC regains ownership of lot

WHEELING — West Virginia Northern Community College has regained ownership of a Wheeling lot after a judge voided deeds transferring its title following a tax sale earlier this year.

Ohio County Circuit Court Judge David Sims ordered in a Dec. 7 decision that the title and ownership of the property should be fully restored to the West Virginia Northern Community College Foundation. The decision vacates a deed transferring ownership to Robert Francis, of Bridgeport, who purchased the property in February for $250,000 from Benjamin T. Bordas. Bordas paid just $3,500 for the property in a tax sale shortly before he sold it to Francis.

“The foundation is pleased with the outcome of the ruling and extremely grateful for the professional manner in which it was represented by the Fitzsimmons Law Firm,” said David Barnhardt, director of marketing and public relations for the college, in a statement.

Attempts to reach Bordas were unsuccessful Friday afternoon.

The lot, next to the college’s B&O Building downtown, has been the center of a lawsuit originally filed in March.

The college sued Bordas, Francis and West Virginia Deputy State Auditor Russell Rollyson in an attempt to reclaim the property after it became aware of the subsequent sales.

Earlier this year, for sale signs went up on the property as it changed hands. On Friday, a sign on the property told a different story, with it displaying “Property of the WVNCC Foundation.”

In his ruling, Sims granted the college’s motion for partial summary judgment that its attorney, Robert P. Fitzsimmons, filed in September. In that motion, Fitzsimmons argued that the defendants had ignored West Virginia law when the new deeds were filed and transferred without allowing the college recourse to correct its previous actions.

The lot in question, which was the site of Electrical Contractors Supply before being sold in 2014 to the college foundation for $240,000, had a previous tax lien when the foundation purchased it. The college initially argued that it did not owe the money because it enjoys tax-exempt status.

However, in Sims’ ruling, he ordered that the foundation must deposit $23,390.63 into the Ohio County Circuit Clerk’s Office for the amount that would have been required for redemption of the property, plus taxes paid on the property since the deed was delivered, with 12 percent interest per annum. In turn, the state auditor’s office must reimburse Bordas the $3,726, which is the price he paid for the property plus costs.

The ruling also appears to be the final say. It orders that the defendants waive appeal rights and that the matter is dismissed with prejudice.

Prior to the tax lien issue and sale, the college had said it planned to use the property for a parking lot.

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