Cavanagh says no issues with mortgages on her property

Cavanagh says no issues with mortgages on her property

In 2009, the Smithfield Land Trust purchased the development rights to approximately 12 acres of Councilor Maxine Cavanagh’s Log Road property in the form of a conservation easement. (Breeze photo by Jackie Roman)

SMITHFIELD – As the Town Council continues its review of Land Trust practices and transactions, Councilor Maxine Cavanagh is answering questions about the 2009 sale of her property.

An Oct. 25 Valley Breeze & Observer article described questions surrounding the September 2009 purchase and sale agreement for Cavanagh’s Log Road property, signed by Land Trust Chairwoman Barbara Rich.

The document provides for the sale of the development rights in the form of a conservation easement and stipulates that the purchaser agrees to obtain title insurance as well as discharge of any existing mortgages.

In a Sept. 5 presentation to the Town Council, local business owner Jackson Despres expressed concerns that Cavanagh had breached her commitment for title insurance with Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Co. and not paid the entirety of her two mortgages on the property, one in the amount of $70,000 from 1990, and another in the amount of $150,000 from 2007.

Despres also included a letter written by former Solicitor Edmund Alves to Rich on Dec. 9, 2009, acknowledging the outstanding mortgages.

Also included was a copy of a $388,440 check paid to Cavanagh on Dec. 29, 2009, and a copy of property record payments from the county clerk’s office, which showed the mortgages were discharged on April 19, 2010 and Jan. 21, 2010, respectively.

The information suggested that Cavanagh received payment for the conservation easement before the mortgages were paid off.

Cavanagh this week offered evidence that the mortgages were in fact paid off prior to the closing.

A Sept. 13 letter from Alves to Town Manager Randy Rossi explained that clerical errors were to blame.

“My research with Citizens Bank, the mortgage holder, indicated that the $70,000 mortgage had been paid off in 2007. The discharge has not been recorded in the Land Evidence Records, which is not an uncommon occurrence,” stated the letter.

Alves also enclosed documents showing his office’s efforts to obtain a duplicate discharge of mortgage by telephone and letter.

“The first duplicate discharge sent by Citizens Bank had an incorrect property address,” he stated. “The duplicate discharge was finally obtained on April 13, 2010, and was recorded on April 19, 2010.”

Alves continues, “The 2007 mortgage has only a $9 balance, and this was paid off by the Cavanaghs prior to the closing. A discharge of this mortgage was recorded on January 21, 2010, about three weeks after the closing.”

At a Nov. 7 Town Council meeting, resident Al Costantino also questioned why Cavanagh had not obtained the title insurance or her own legal counsel, as was standard for every other Land Trust transaction.

Cavanagh told The Valley Breeze & Observer she was not told she needed the title insurance and she did not think she needed a lawyer other than the solicitor, who she trusted.