Judge slams Or Yehuda for chasing man over NIS 2.5 ‘debt’

Judge Michal Agmon-Gonen slammed municipality for starting administrative collection procedures against Aharon Matana, a man in his 80s.

August 29, 2011 07:31
2 minute read.
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The Tel Aviv District Court issued a harsh judgment on Sunday against the Or Yehuda Municipality and the Interior Ministry after they issued a local man with a NIS 2.5 million bill for over 20 years of backdated municipal charges.

Judge Michal Agmon-Gonen slammed the municipality for starting administrative collection procedures against Aharon Matana, a man in his 80s who has owned and rented out an event hall in Or Yehuda since 1985.

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Matana was hit with the NIS 2.5m. bill for two decades of backdated “obligatory municipal payments” in 2009.

The octogenarian was “overwhelmed by fear” as bank accounts containing his life savings were foreclosed when the local authority began administrative collection procedures to secure the millions of shekels they demanded, the court learned.

However, the judge criticized Or Yehuda city hall for presenting the bill out of the blue, with no prior warnings and without attempting to collect the payments before.

“The possibility that a local authority will sit and do nothing for many years, then suddenly wake up one day and present its citizens with an astronomical bill, without any details or explanation, and then start administrative collection proceedings, seems to me unreasonable and lacking in integrity,” said Agmon-Gonen.

Among the charges included in the bill Matana received were property taxes, road levies and garbage collection charges dating back to the 1980s and 1990s, for which he had never been billed at the time.

However, the court found that the municipality did not even have records for the vast majority of the debts – some of which were two decades old – and payment would have completely wiped out Matana’s life-savings.

The judge also noted that even though Or Yehuda city hall was demanding millions of shekels in back payments, it had not included any detailed breakdown of the charges in the bill.

When Matana asked for more detailed information, the municipality would not provide it, but instead initiated collection proceedings against him.

The judge also noted that even when the Or Yehuda Municipality began its administrative collection procedures against Matana, the prosecution in that case had still failed to detail the source of all the debts.

At that point, Matana decided to petition the case in the Tel Aviv District Court.

While the judge noted that local authorities do have the legal right to initiate collection procedures for unpaid debts, that right should only be exercised with caution, she said.

“We take a very severe view of collection procedures initiated on the basis of tax assessments that include unsubstantiated and nonspecific charges,” Agmon-Gonen said. “The conduct of the municipality and the Interior Ministry was almost unimaginable: They imposed debts totaling millions of shekels, the life savings of an elderly man in his 80s, without any prior checking.”

In accepting Matana’s petition, the court ordered the Or Yehuda Municipality and the Interior Ministry to pay his court fees to a total of NIS 150,000.

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