Latter & Blum Inc. Realtors fired its president, Arthur Sterbcow, earlier this week.

According to The Times-Picayune newspaper, the real estate company terminated Sterbcow for supplying the newspaper with information about broker price opinions (or BPOs) that "showed a 14 percent gap between home sale prices and property tax assessments made by Jefferson Parish Assessor Lawrence E. Chehardy," the paper said.

Sterbcow confirmed the accuracy of the Times-Picayune story about his termination and said he had no regrets.

"I think it’s always a Realtor’s responsibility to always respond to the public and to the media when they ask. It’s never been in (Latter & Blum’s) persona to shy away from requests from the media. No, I’d do it again in five seconds. I encourage agents to be active and civic to help the community be a better place."

Sterbcow has a reputation for being something of a media darling for his openness with the press.

The New Orleans paper called Sterbcow "a champion of transparency and good government" and added that he had provided it with similar information in 2004 that led to the consolidation of the city’s seven elected assessors into one office in an attempt to eliminate assessment disparities.

The New Orleans newspaper quotes an e-mail announcing the termination sent by Latter & Blum President Robert Merrick to employees:

"Needless to say, the last people on earth we need against us are our assessors. Latter & Blum was cited throughout the articles as the source of the BPO’s. The assessors wanted to know, ‘why in hell is Latter & Blum doing this’?? I am in the process of mending fences. Latter & Blum should never have been involved in this matter."

Sterbcow deferred to Merrick to explain the reasons behind his termination. Latter & Blum officials did not respond to calls for comment. Sterbcow is weighing his options for what he will do next.

"One offer was to go babysitting for my grandkids," Sterbcow said, laughing. "But seriously, I don’t know. I’m just going to relax a bit and see what the options are. I’m definitely not a retiree kind of person. Real estate is in my blood."

A lifelong New Orleans resident, Sterbcow helped Latter & Blum rebound after Hurricane Katrina shut down 24 of its 28 offices in August 2005 (see story).

Sterbcow had been with Latter & Blum since 1980. When asked how it felt to be fired after 30 years, he said, "I’ve still got agents calling me, friends. They’re all extremely supportive. The good news is that my reputation has been pretty good all these years."

Pam O’Connor, president and CEO of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, credits Sterbcow (in a comment on the Inman News site) with being a pioneer in posting "a for-sale home listing on the Internet back in August of 1988. He said people actually yelled and screamed at him for ‘misusing’ the Internet for commercial purposes. Clearly, he was a little ahead of everyone!"

***

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