When Republican US Senate nominee Gabriel E. Gomez was seeking a lucrative historical tax deduction for his Cohasset home, he rejected the first appraisal he received because it was too low and then refused to pay the appraiser’s bill, according to a claim filed this week.
That appraiser, Shaun Fitzgerald, said Gomez hired him in late 2005 to determine the amount he could deduct on his federal tax return in exchange for agreeing not to alter the home’s facade. But Fitzgerald said Gomez then failed to pay the $1,000 appraiser’s fee.
Fitzgerald filed a small claims complaint in Quincy District Court Tuesday. In it, he requested payment and attached his appraisal report that estimated the value of the deduction at $245,640.
Gomez instead received a more generous $281,500 valuation from another appraiser, George Riethof of Cambridge-based Metro Partners. Riethof declined to comment Wednesday.
In his complaint, Fitzgerald said Gomez told him he would not pay the bill because the appraisal “was not properly prepared and that the value of the easement at $245,640 was inadequate.”
In a brief interview Wednesday, Fitzgerald added that Gomez had also told him at the time that he was not paying the bill because the preservation restriction had been rejected by the National Architectural Trust, a Washington, D.C-based nonprofit historic preservation group that has been targeted by the US Department of Justice for its marketing tactics.
“He left the clear impression it was refused,’’ said Fitzgerald, a former president of the Massachusetts Board of Real Estate Appraisers. He said he only learned that Gomez received the easement from the Trust when he read the Globe story last week.
Under federal tax law, homeowners who agree to restrict changes to the facade of their house are able to receive compensation in the form of a charitable tax deduction, by giving control of their home’s exterior to the tax-exempt trust in the form of an easement.
The tax deduction is based on the loss of value to the property created by the restrictions.
Gomez indicated through a spokesman Wednesday that he wanted to resolve the issue with Fitzgerald.
“We are not aware of Mr. Fitzgerald’s recent claim of an unpaid invoice from eight years ago,” spokesman Will Ritter said. “However, we have reached out to Mr. Fitzgerald and are waiting to hear back.”
Gomez has refused to sit down for an interview on the details of the deduction.
Fitzgerald said he sent a certified letter that arrived at Gomez’s home Saturday saying he would take Gomez to court over the unpaid bill if he did not hear from him by Monday.
Ritter said the campaign would have no comment on the letter.
The Gomez campaign questioned Fitzgerald’s motives, pointing out that he has donated to Democratic candidates.
Asked why he waited more than seven years to file the suit, Fitzgerald said: “I had no leverage back then. I produced a report in good faith. Once he had my report, I had no recourse, but now I have the recourse, namely the knowledge that he got the deduction.’’
Fitzgerald said he could not comment further because of professional confidentiality issues that bar him from talking publicly about the details of his work for Gomez.
Fitzgerald will probably face an uphill fight to win his case, since the six-year statute of limitations appears to have expired.
Gomez, who faced his first major public controversy when the report of his tax deduction emerged last week, has rejected requests from news organizations to publicly release his federal tax return for 2005, the year he declared the deduction, and other details involved in the deal, including the appraisal used to determine the amount of his deduction. The Trust, too, said it has a policy not to release the documents involved in its easement cases.
In his Dec. 21, 2005 report, Fitzgerald, who owns Fitzgerald Appraisals in North Easton, concluded that the value of the entire property was $2.225 million. Gomez had purchased the home in November 2004 for $2.1 million.
Fitzgerald said he was surprised when Gomez told him at the time that his appraisal had been rejected by the National Architectural Trust. Fitzgerald said it was the trust that had initially put him in contact with the Cohasset businessman.
“I couldn’t understand how his got refused and that the others I did for the trust were accepted,’’ Fitzgerald said. While the preservation agreement with Gomez was the first of its kind in Cohasset, the trust has taken on easement restrictions on scores of other properties in Massachusetts, including about 75 in Suffolk County alone.
In 2011, federal prosecutors, citing findings by the Internal Revenue Service, said the National Architectural Trust had arranged for “unwarranted’’ claims by homeowners for huge deductions. The Department of Justice obtained a court injunction against some of the Trust’s practices.
As far back as early 2005, the IRS had listed preservation agreements such as the one the Gomezes signed with the trust as one of its “Dirty Dozens tax scams.” The Gomez campaign said his deduction was never questioned by the IRS.
Longstanding historic preservation laws in Cohasset, however, already prevented the Gomezes from making changes to the facade of their home, raising questions about the value of the deduction. The IRS has said in situations in which local preservation laws already prohibit alterations, a restrictive easement made with another entity such as the trust is “superfluous.’’
In a statement to the Globe, the trust’s attorney, Jeffrey S. Tenenbaum, has argued that a facade agreement such as the one the trust signed with the Gomezes is often more restrictive and more enduring because local zoning laws are subject to the political whims of officials.
After receiving their easement however, the Gomezes changed parts of the facade of their house in 2006. Because it was not visible from the street, the work did not require the approval of the local historical commission, on which Gomez’s wife, Sarah, serves.
The couple did have to get permission from the trust to make the changes on the facade of the rear of the house. The trust agreed.
That construction included removal of a brick chimney, one of the two on the house. A survey commissioned by the trust in August 2005 to evaluate the historic significance of the home had determined that the chimneys were “important character-defining elements’’ of the property.Frank Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.