Court asked for assessor recall

Baenen -
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Frustration over perceived errors made on property values has pushed one Coupeville resident too far.

Last week, former Island County assessor Roy Compton submitted a letter to the Island County Auditor’s Office calling for current Assessor Tom Baenen’s recall. In his letter, Compton outlines 12 different instances of problems that he claims warrant Baenen’s removal.

“A let down in management has caused all of these problems,” Compton wrote. “It’s a matter of poor management and we need better management.”

Baenen was informed of the demand Friday morning. When reached for comment, he had very little to say.

“I have no comment on Mr. Compton’s allegations,” Baenen, who has been in office for 10 years, said. “I will have to respond to these in the proper order at the proper time.”

Under Washington law, acts of wrongful conduct that “affects, interrupts or interferes with the performance of official duty,” are grounds for recall.

Island County Prosecuting Attorney Greg Banks now has 15 days to prepare a synopsis that concisely states the charges. The Superior Court must then rule if the charges satisfy the recall criteria.

According to Compton’s letter, Baenen allegedly “failed to transmit total assessed value in a timely manner to the Washington State Department of Revenue, delaying the calculations of state school levies for all 39 counties in the State of Washington.”

Compton also alleged errors in the assessor’s office caused the county treasurer’s office to have to reissue tax statements and make refunds.

The alleged errors, in Compton’s estimation, reduced “the funds of all taxing districts in Island County, the State of Washington schools, and the dual county school and library,” the letter states.

Compton, who served as the county’s elected assessor until the early ‘80s, said all of the allegations stem from either personal experience or direct observations. He said he has chosen to speak out for the more than 900 people who have appealed their property value assessments this year.

“People are hiding their feelings and they feel that government is always right,” Compton said. “I don’t approve of the dart board method of appraising.”

Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton said people inherently have an issue with the assessor and his staff.

“At the end of the day, if someone comes out and assesses your property and you know that what he assesses your property at is going to translate into a tax bill for you, that’s not a popular position,” Shelton said.

Shelton said that the future is up to the voters if the issue gets to them.

“For any elected official, the people can choose to recall any one of us,” Shelton said. “It’ll be up to the Superior Court to determine the validity of the claims.”

While not outright pledging his support for Baenen, Shelton did say that he would not sign the petition for recall if it came to him. Both Shelton and Baenen are Republicans.

If the recall request makes it through the court, supporters of the petition will have until May of next year to gather 3,865 signatures to force a recall vote.

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