Former Assessor-Treasurer Ken Madsen this week finds himself trying to explain why his office didn’t conduct – as he puts it – "boots on the ground" inspections for every parcel in Pierce County. But it’s not the first time Madsen has faced such questions.
In 2005, Madsen faced a recall petition filed by Dale Washam, who won election to the assessor’s post last November. In a court hearing on the recall petition, Madsen testified on the issue of whether the office physically inspected properties.
Specifically, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee asked Madsen about 89, 000 parcels that Washam and others claimed had been falsely reported as physically inspected.
According to a verbatim transcript of the hearing (you can download a copy below), McPhee asked Madsen: "…do you contend that in those reports, that those 89,000 parcels approximately were physically inspected by someone in your office?"
Madsen responded that the number reported was "a combination of physical appraisal – or physical inspection and statistical update or statistical appraisal."
Madsen explained that the assessor’s office used computer analysis to identify parcels where "we need to put boots on the ground."
McPhee followed up: "Do I understand your answer to mean that for those approximately 89,000 parcels … that there may have been some of those that were not physically inspected?"
Madsen responded: "I would agree with that."
Madsen’s testimony is included in a 54 page transcript of the hearing. You can download a PDF copy of Madsen’s testimony here.
The rest of the hearing also is enlightening. Madsen’s attorney, Joseph Quinn, essentially argues not that the assessor’s office completed physical inspections as required by state law, but that Washam hasn’t proved that the office broke the law.
"That’s my point, your Honor, is that they seem to think from the evidence that they have seen that we wouldn’t be able to establish a physical inspection of every property within six years," Quinn said at one point. "It may or may not be true. I’m not going to stand up here and say one way or another, because on this record one cannot."
Ultimately, McPhee dismissed the recall petition, in part because Washam and the other petitioners didn’t demonstrate that Madsen had intentionally broken the law.
If you want to read the full transcript, you can download it below. For technical reasons, I’ve broken it into three separate files.