It’s not every day people raise money for a fine levied against an attorney they have never met. But that’s exactly what some members of a Facebook group operated by Jeff Gold did for him after Nassau County officials threatened to fine him for an error on his law firm’s website.
While not representing individuals and small business clients out of his Bellmore office, Gold helps thousands of homeowners file assessment challenges through a Facebook group he operates, “Nassau — Grieve Your Tax Assessment on Your Own — Free.”
The fine notice was sent to him within a month after he criticized County Executive Edward Mangano’s property tax assessment system overhaul, which was detailed in Newsday’s “Separate & Unequal” investigation.
Gold was notified in February by the county’s Office of Consumer Affairs that his website violated the county’s deceptive and unfair trade practices laws by stating Gold still was on the county’s Assessment Review Commission. The panel renders decisions on assessment challenges.
Gold left the commission in 2008 but hadn’t updated the law firm’s website.
The letter Gold received said he would have to pay $2,500 within 10 days to settle the case or face a fine of up to $5,000.
But the county dismissed the case last week — saying its initial notice was only a “cease and desist” letter. By then, some of the 8,000 members of the Facebook group had raised the fine money for Gold without him asking for them to do so.
Malverne resident Daren Lubin, 36, said he visited Gold’s Facebook group a few months ago to research filing his first assessment challenge.
Lubin said that when he learned Gold was being fined from a post on the page, he felt like those who had saved money on their taxes due to Gold’s help would be willing to chip in. Lubin said he had never met or spoken with Gold . . .
“This guy is doing something for the community and helping the community and all the residents of Nassau County,” Lubin said. “So, I felt like paying it forward.”
The letter warning Gold of the fine arrived within a month of a News 12 Long Island broadcast in which Gold alleged that County Executive Edward Mangano was “incompetent” or “corrupt” when he overhauled the assessment system. Gold said the timing of the letter and the fact that county officials never asked him to change the site before fining him made him believe the fine was intended as retribution for the criticism.
“Within a half-hour of receiving the letter, my tech guy changed the webpage,” Gold said.
County Commissioner of Consumer Affairs Madalyn Farley suggested retribution had nothing to do with the fine. Farley said in an emailed statement that her office issues hundreds of violations each year and began its investigation into Gold after receiving a complaint.
“Although Mr. Gold is a self-proclaimed expert in the industry, I highly doubt the county executive even knows who he is,” Farley said.
Farley said the county dismissed the case after Gold produced documentation showing the website was no longer used for business practices and that it had been corrected.
Gold decided to give the money that was raised to several local charities, something supported by Lubin and others who donated.
“I feel like Santa Claus,” Gold said in a post to the group where he listed some of the donations. “Thanks to all who donated for giving me this opportunity.”