A Kansas City couple who previously sued Clay County’s collector of revenue after they were blocked from participating in the county tax sale has reached a $25,000 settlement with two other counties they also alleged blocked them from participating.
Dawn and Joel Yoest have reached a settlement with Ray and Pettis counties for $25,000, according to a settlement agreement obtained through a public-records request.
The settlement brings to an end a portion of a lawsuit the Yoests and several of their business entities filed in 2018 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri against the counties; their collectors of revenue, Julie Chowning and Marsha Boeschen; as well as Clay County and its collector, Lydia McAvoy.
McAvoy first blocked the Yoests from participating in the 2016 tax sale in Clay County. According to their federal suit, McAvoy informed them via email that she was permanently banning them from participating in the 2016 tax sale and any future tax sales in the county.
She said the ban was the result of an “ongoing” investigation of the Yoests that she was conducting, according to the Yoests’ suit. While she forwarded information about the Yoests to law enforcement, the Clay County prosecutor declined to bring charges against the couple, according to their federal suit.
A Clay County judge denied the Yoests’ request for a preliminary injunction in response to the ban, prompting them to appeal to the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District. On appeal, McAvoy alleged she had a duty to refuse bids “from those who have demonstrated a history of dishonesty, lack of integrity, and lack of reliability.”
The appeals court overturned the circuit court ruling, ruling the Yoests “had a clear and unequivocal right to participate in the tax sale.”
The Yoests attempted again to take part in the tax sale in 2018 but were again unable to do so — they alleged they were barred again improperly by the county, while the county contended they did not take the proper steps to register for the sale.
They sought a contempt ruling against McEvoy in 2018, but a Clay County judge denied their motion.
The Yoests alleged in their federal suit that McAvoy emailed other collectors with a warning about the Yoests and also emailed Chowning and Boeschen specifically about the Yoests.
The couple alleged they also were banned from the 2016 sale in Ray County and the 2017 sale in Pettis County.
They alleged in their suit that the defendants violated their rights to free speech, due process and equal protection. They also brought claims of civil conspiracy, municipal liability and tortious interference.
Chowning and Boeschen were dismissed from the suit prior to the settlement. U.S. District Judge Stephen R. Bough dismissed the counties Aug. 5 following the settlement.
The Yoests’ claims against McAvoy and Clay County remain live, including a defamation claim against McAvoy. The case is scheduled for trial in January 2020.
Todd Johnson of Votava Nantz & Johnson represented the Yoests and their companies. Mark D. Katz of Coronado Katz represented the counties. Both declined to comment on the settlement.
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Venue: U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri
Case Number/Date: 4:18-cv-611/Aug. 5, 2019
Judge: Stephen R. Bough
Caption: Dawn and Joel Yoest, Liberty Assets LLC, Liberty Asset Holdings LLC, Jupiter Group LLC, Castle Associates LLC, Five Star Investors LLC and Graham Property Investments LLC v. Ray County, Missouri and Pettis County, Missouri
Insurer: Missouri Public Entity Risk Management
Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Todd M. Johnson, Votava Nantz & Johnson, Kansas City
Defendant’s Attorneys: Steven F. Coronado, Alyssa Brownlee and Mark D. Katz, Coronado Katz, Kansas City