Former assistant county attorney says office colludes with assessor to frustrate tax appeals

CASPER, Wyo.– Casper’s attorney and former Natrona County Assistant District Attorney Tom Green says he is just one of thousands of property tax protesters who have been wronged in the process of appeal by “misrepresentation of the law” and deprivation of evidence.

“Since these appeals have been pending, the County Attorney’s Office and the Office of the Tax Assessor have been virtually phased in unlawfully dismissing the ratepayers’ appeals by first withholding the discovery and other information they are legally entitled to receive,” Green told Natrona. County Commission during public comment at its regular meeting on Tuesday, August 2. He appeared with attorney and commission nominee Dallas Laird, whom he endorses. Laird has expressed similar concerns to the commission before.

Green served as assistant county attorney under Eric Nelson for most of 2021. Green said he resigned in disgust from the proceedings in his appeal case that year, which he argued on his own name while working in the same office as the assistant county attorney. Charmaine Reed was opposing counsel representing the Assessor in the case. The situation became increasingly “untenable and unsustainable,” Nelson wrote in a document related to the case, stating that Green’s employment with the county lasted “until approximately noon on October 24, 2021.”

The details of Green’s case are detailed later in this article. Green said he had been in contact with dozens of other property tax protesters whose experiences mirrored his own in that key evidence about their cases had not been produced upon request, as expected. by the law.

The State Board of Equalization administrative rules regarding appeals (Section 9, Chapter 6) are derived of the law and declare that a tax protester has the right to review key tax-related documents within 30 days of the hearing. These include statements of consideration. All valid market sales within a land economic zone are used to determine land values.

Former Johnson County assessor Cindy Barlow told Oil City News she represented or advised several hundred accounts in the 2020 hearings, in which more than 1,900 formal appeals were filed.

Barlow said she was able to get SOCs for “none of them.”

“In Natrona County, your people couldn’t even get the documentation they needed to have good exhibits in 2020,” Barlow said. “They asked for it all summer and got crickets from Charmaine and [Assessor Matt] Keating.

In December, Barlow said his client finally had access to the requested information.

“When we went down to see they weren’t in any order, they were thrown in a box. They weren’t tied to an LEA.

In its review of this case, the State Board of Equalization recognized that Keating was “unable to strictly comply with the legal requirement for disclosure of information as the information was unorganized, the assessor was preparing for hundreds of calls, and the COVID-19 pandemic limited the ability of evaluators’ offices to respond”. The case has been returned to Natrona County, where hearings will continue.

Keating told Oil City News that when he took office in 2019, the evaluator’s office was “a mess” and SOCs had not been appreciably organized. Correcting the situation was an ongoing project throughout the year.

Attorneys Tom Green and Dallas Laird (Gregory Hirst, Oil City)

“Were they disorganized? Yeah, we hadn’t gotten to them yet,” Keating said. “But we allowed him access. Where did I fail? I was unable to print and deliver the SOCs to him. But I provided him with a searchable disk with all the sales in Natrona County.

Over the next few years, and today, Keating said he would absolutely be able to provide that information to anyone who asked. Because Wyoming is a non-disclosure state, SOCs can only be provided to those who object to their assessments during the evidence exchange process leading up to a contested hearing.

Few protesters actually ask for this information, Keating said. Barlow told a legislative committee last year that even with the evidence in hand, ordinary citizens often don’t know how to use it to build their case.

Barlow said Reed and the Assessor’s Office provided “sales analytics,” a downstream product derived from SOCs, during the hearings.

“Their piece that said ‘statement of consideration’ was nothing more than their sales analysis, period,” Barlow said. “They never gave a statement of consideration and that was very misleading to the commission.”

On appeals, the county attorney may represent either the commission or the county assessor, but not both at the same time. In 2020, Nelson’s assistant, Charmaine Reed, represented the assessor in most cases where appellants actually showed up for their hearings.

Reed was unavailable at the start of the week, but Nelson spoke generally about his memories of the cases.

“I understand that the SOCs relied upon, when requested, the assessor’s office would give a printout of these statements of consideration. This is basically a summary of these SOCs.

“Overall, I understand everyone who received them was generally happy with them,” Nelson said.

“I would push back against the idea that there was a widespread effort not to provide the requested information,” he added.

Green has a different rating.

“I think there was real collusion between the county attorney’s office and the tax assessor to defeat the law-breaking taxpayers,” Green said. “I think county commissioners were at a disadvantage on these appeals because they rely on the county attorney to give a correct assessment of the law.”

“They’re misrepresenting to taxpayers, generally, all the way down the line, that they don’t qualify for SOCs, or that it’s too burdensome for them to produce them, or that they don’t have them. , and they intentionally drag out the process so the taxpayer doesn’t stand a chance,” Green said.

Green’s case

Green also reiterated details of his 2021 appeal, which he is representing on behalf of himself and three other landowners who own four plots near their home on Garden Creek Road. Wishing to protect their views, they registered an alliance in the county in 2002 swearing that the tract would remain undeveloped.

Green and the others protested the valuation of this land, saying it should be valued like other development-restricted parcels through covenants, conditions, and restrictions, which may be filed by HOAs or included in developers’ subdivision plans.

Green provided Oil City News case law reviews stating that “an appraiser should consider covenants limiting the use of real property when determining the market value of a property for tax purposes”. Wyoming law also defines “real property” as “the lands and appurtenances thereof, including structures…and any intangible features who contributes at their fair market value. »

Green said he asked for assessments of other restricted plot areas during his hearing. “I was asking that they consider this ‘intangible characteristic’, which you are required to consider by case law.”

“[Nelson, Charmaine and the assessor] says they’re not tracking it under the description I stated in my request,” Green said. His discovery request was for appraisals of other parcels he had identified in the county that were listed as “restricted use” and assessed uniformly at $500 per parcel.

Keating and Nelson disagreed that Green’s protected lands were comparable to these other restricted parcels, which Keating defined as truly “unbuildable” due to land or utility easements. Keating confirmed that his office does not track covenanted packages. Thus, the other unbuildable parcels were not included in the calculation of Green’s tract. Their use as evidence would then have to be approved by the commission. Nelson wrote that Green’s demands were incorrectly issued.

Keating added that the pledge on Green’s leaflet could be overturned. Moreover, the protected viewshed could just as well increase the land value of the landowners who benefited from it.

“That would be robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Keating said.

Administrative Regulations of the State Board of Equalization, Article 8