Coles Co. (ECWd) -
Over the last 18 months, we have been covering in great detail the illegal actions by Coles County officials. Those actions include bid-rigging, improper contracting, pay for no work, Open Meetings Act violations, Freedom of Information Act violations, illegal contracting and more. Most of those articles and all the supporting documents can be found at this link. Currently, those actions have led to multiple lawsuits to include two currently active cases, one in the Federal Court and one in the Circuit Court.
After reading recent reports from the local paper we once again find it absolutely necessary to expose the facts that for unknown reasons continues to be missing in the paper. When key facts are not shared the public is not informed of the situation in sufficient detail for people to actually care. When citizens have all the information they can then make good decisions come next election.
July 10th, 2018 article - "He said there are likely several factors that will determine if Becker is a county employee. But if there's "a suggestion" that he is, it's more logical to pay him that way, Bower explained."
A suggestion that he is an employee? The County Board Chairman confirmed with our State Representatives they contracted a person (Bob Becker) to do the assessments as found in this article. Only after the County was informed they violated the law in that action did they create a claim the person was an employee as outlined in this article with video. When they could not produce W2's for this claimed employee who actually was a contractor submitting invoices and receiving 1099's they realized 'their suggestion' of him being an employee was established after they got caught contracting a person to do a Public Officials job.
The most important point in State's Attorney Bower's comment is the fact he confirms he was not initially getting paid as an employee. If he was, there would not have been a need to change the payment method. In short, Bower has admitted the prior payments to Becker were not as an employee.
August 3, 2018 article - "While it might seem the better route would be to visit and inspect each piece of property, that's "not realistic," county Supervisor of Assessments Karen Biddle said."
Not realistic? I must have missed that in the law. ..."shall actually view and determine as near as practicable the value of each property listed for taxation as of January 1 of that year..."
So why the paper simply reports what the Supervisor of Assessments (SOA) says, they fail to let the public know why her statement is in direct conflict with the law that requires assessors to actually view each property listed for taxation. If the SOA is not going to follow the law on the property tax assessment rules why is she getting a paycheck?
August 3, 2018 article -"Appraiser Bob Becker is conducting the reassessment of the commercial and industrial property by looking at such things as replacement costs and the sale prices of similar properties, she explained.
"He's using an accepted method," Biddle said."
Appraiser Bob Becker is conducting the reassessment of those properties or Coles County employee Bob Becker is conducting the Reassessments? As far as the SOA claiming he is using an accepted method, how can it be an accepted method when they miss the mark by a $1,000,000.00 on a piece of property? Better yet, how can an appraiser doing assessments be an accepted method when the law does not permit the SOA office to contract an appraiser to do those assessments?
August 3, 2018 article -"He's now on the third of the four stages of the project after finishing reassessments in Mattoon and Charleston townships."
Four stages of the project? You mean "4-year contract" the County Chairman confirmed during the County Board meeting back in April of 2017? Watch the video to see the confirmation of this 4-year contract at this link and go to the 11:50 mark of the video. What they are calling a project is nothing more than doing quadrennial assessments where they have broken the county into four quarters and each year one gets assessed. The problem is the law requires the entire county to have been done prior to converting to a quadrennial schedule, which is what brought the Federal Lawsuit against Coles County.
August 3, 2018 article -"The figures weren't far off," he said. "The vast majority that came before the Board of Review were satisfied."
So a Million dollars off the mark is not far off?
August 3, 2018 article -"Some adjustments were made and there were a "handful" of properties that were assessed inaccurately, which was to be expected, Frederick said."
Wrong! The public does not pay their taxes in expectation of inaccurate assessments. The fact they have taken the position inaccurate assessments was to be expected is simply unacceptable!
August 3, 2018 article -"Local governments throughout the state handle assessments differently, said Josh Tanner, president of the County Assessment Officers Association."
Really? How is that happening when they are all bound by the very same property tax assessment law? With all Counties bound by the same law, you would think the handling of assessments would be the same statewide.
August 3, 2018 article -“Townships vary in size, counties vary in size, and so the statutes have allowed a number of ways to approach the problem and solve it,” said Tanner, who is also the Supervisor of Assessments for Macon County. “Each county is empowered to choose the way that works for them.”
Wrong! The County is not empowered to choose the way that works for them. The law provides the process for all Townships and Multi-townships. Townships and Multi-Townships can elect an assessor, appoint an assessor, or contract with a person meeting the required credentials to perform the assessments. If no assessor is in place under the established process, the County Supervisor of Assessments can perform those assessments.
How many caught the disclosure that the Macon County Supervisor of Assessments is also the President of the County Officers Assessment Association? How special! Lead an Association that lobbies on behalf of your specific employment. Nothing to see there?
August 3, 2018 article -“Unfortunately, (the office of) assessments doesn't receive a lot of money when it comes to budgeting. It takes a lot of money to do the job,” Tanner said. “Viewing each house, photographing them, measuring them -- there’s a reason why there’s a lot of township assessor vacancies.”
Viewing each house? So the Macon County SOA understands the requirement to view each house but in that same article the Coles County SOA said, "While it might seem the better route would be to visit and inspect each piece of property, that's "not realistic." As far as the SOA office not receiving a lot of money when it comes to budgeting we must ask, who's fault is that? If the SOA submits a budget that is insufficient to comply with the law they who is responsible for this failure?
As you can see, the local reporting lacks a substantial amount of fact-checking of statements and cross-referencing with applicable laws that in many cases will point to public officials not following the law. Sadly, the local reporter has been present for most if not all of those County Board meetings were most of this information was discussed. Mysteriously the majority of the malfeasance by the public officials has failed to get into the paper.
Stay tuned for Part II