"There's no one in real estate today," explained the woman who answered my call. "They're all at the sheriff's sale."
"Is there someone I can talk to for just a minute?" I asked.
"No one's there," she repeated.
"Not even one person?" I pressed. "For a quick question?"
"No one," she said.
Well that was odd. Because at that moment, I was standing at the entrance to the
For a half-hour, I had been using my cellphone to call the department, to see if any of them would pick up. They didn't. Nor did my calls go to voice mail. Instead, they disconnected. The same thing happened several days prior to the sale as I tried at least a dozen times to get through to real estate. Only once did anyone answer.
The entire experience repeated itself prior to and on
When I got back to the office, I called bankruptcy attorney
"You were right," I said. "No one answers."
For months, Dunne had been telling me how rarely he's able to get someone on the horn at the
Yes, Dunne faxes to the
"It's like we're supposed to run over [to the
"If a property is sold at
At the last sale, he notes, 20 of the 900 listed sales were stopped. So when in doubt, he says, get to
Still, Vignola hears Dunne's frustration. He points to a downsized department in which just nine employees handle up to 2,000 cases a month.
"We've consistently petitioned the city to review our staffing needs," he says. "Our people have stepped up, every one of them. I'm proud of them. But we have an urgent need for at least three more employees."
In time, when new systems are in place that allow for electronic filing of mortgage documents, for example, instead of manual filing, "We may not need the full complement," says Vignola.
Fair enough. But why didn't the employees I saw behind the counter, some of them chatting with one another, answer calls I made, even as I watched them?
"I don't know the answer to that," says Vignola, who promises to look into it. "I'm not saying phones should go unanswered. But the counter is closed on sale days. They might've been doing data entry" while others manned the massive sale.
Vignola himself has a problem with the phone system in the
"It's antiquated. It's terrible," he says. "When I'm on the phone and a call comes in, it goes to voice mail -- but I can't retrieve it. That's why my voice mail message tells people to send an email. Then I'll get the message."
Happily, as a result of Dunne's complaint, says Vignola, the
"We also try to monitor our
Seems about as reliable as sending up a flare. But what do I know? I'm a phone gal.
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