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Tag: Dale Washam


Calls by Washam’s office for criminal investigation raise questions of ‘impropriety,’ prosecutor’s office says

Calls by Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam‘s office for a criminal investigation into the actions of his predecessor raise questions of impropriety, “if not worse,” the prosecutor’s office says.

Dale Washam

In the latest back-and-forth between Washam’s office and other county officials. Chief Civil Deputy Prosecutor Doug Vanscoy wrote on Thursday that questions about whether the public was harmed by skipped physical property inspections had been asked and answered. (You can read his letter here.)  Prosecutor’s letter

Deputy Assessor-Treasurer Alberto Ugas filed a criminal complaint with Sheriff Paul Pastor on Oct. 4, claiming “conspiracy to defraud, forgery and falsification of official public records” in took place in Madsen’s office from 2001-2008. Alberto Ugas Criminal Complaint

Vanscoy’s letter was in response to an Oct. 12 request from Ugas that Prosecutor Mark Lindquist “stand up for taxpayers…by initiating an investigation into the allegations set forth in my criminal complaint.” Letter from Deputy Assessor-Treasurer Alberto Ugas to Prosecutor Mark Lindquist

Ugas contends in both his complaint to Pastor and his letter to Lindquist that Madsen’s office unlawfully carried out “forgeries and falsifications” of public records after skipping physical property inspections required by the state. Those actions hopelessly corrupted the tax rolls and harmed taxpayers, Ugas and Washam contend.

Vanscoy, responding to Ugas at Lindquist’s request, wrote in part: “Your own investigative report attempts…to link the Madsen issues to a former employee who has a pending EEO complaint against Mr. Washam, raising a question whether your importuning for a criminal investigation has the appearance of impropriety, if not worse.” Prosecutor’s letter to Washam

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Washam says ‘presumption of correctness’ shouldn’t apply in Pierce County

A key hurdle property owners must overcome to win an assessment appeal got a seeming boost today from Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam.

In a letter posted on the assessor’s website, Washam said he thinks previous errors in the tax rolls have invalidated the “presumption of correctness” that lies with the county in tax appeal cases.

It’s unclear what effect this might have on cases before the Board of Equalization, and The News Tribune is working to get answers to questions about it.

Washam’s letter is the latest missive in his long campaign to bring the county’s assessments in

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Investigation finds Washam ‘abused authority’

A Pierce County Human Resources investigation of employee whistleblower complaints about the management of Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam points to more problems in the office.

Investigator Kent Nakamura sided with six Assessor-Treasurer employees who filed complaints of improper conduct against Washam last year, accusing him of abuse of authority, including retaliating against employees who complain, wasting resources and using his position to promote religion.

Here are key findings from the report.

While Washam wouldn’t submit to questioning by the investigator, he filed a written response to the report. He maintains that the employee “personnel” complaints are not properly subject to the whistleblower complaint provisions of the county code. Below is an excerpt:

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Washam: Thousands of properties underassessed

Dale Washam

Inspections done by Pierce County appraisers have turned up thousands of commercial properties that were undervalued or overvalued for tax purposes, according to Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam.

Washam says the assessed value of nearly 6,800 commercial properties rose by a collective $1.6 billion after inspections. The value of another 2,600 properties fell by a combined $599 million.

It’s difficult to determine the specific impact of the assessment changes because Washam declined to answer many questions about them. He won’t say why the properties were undervalued or overvalued, except to say they weren’t inspected. And he won’t divulge the location of specific properties.

But the assessor’s claims, made in response to questions from The News Tribune, suggest the magnitude of problems potentially caused by Pierce County’s failure to inspect properties as required by state law for seven years.

Washam has long claimed that the assessor’s office failed to inspect many properties for tax purposes, Ken Madsen. Last month an investigator’s report confirmed that claim.

Most years Pierce County uses statistical methods to assess the value of property for tax purposes. But state law requires local assessors to inspect properties at least once every six years.

The inspections help appraisers discover improvements or deterioration that affect property values. They also allow them to update property descriptions used in the statistical methods that determine values in other years.

Last month’s report by a Seattle consultant found the Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer’s Office failed to perform physical inspections from 2001 to 2008.

Washam claims the office skipped about 228,000 inspections. He declined an interview this week. But in recent written statements and responses to some questions he claims:

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Report: Former assessor to blame for skipped inspections, false reports

Pierce County failed to inspect properties for tax purposes as required by state law for seven years, and the blame lies squarely with the county’s former assessor-treasurer and his chief deputy, according to a new report.

The report concludes then-Assessor-Treasurer Ken Madsen and Deputy Assessor-Treasurer Kathy Fewins directed employees to perform statistical appraisals of properties for tax purposes instead of the in-person inspections required by law. Then they directed employees to pass off the statistical appraisals as in-person – or “physical” – inspections in reports submitted to state and county officials.

The report confirms much of what current Assessor-Treasurer Dale

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Pierce County assessor employee resigns, cites “intolerable” working conditions

Dale Washam

A supervisor who accused Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam of discrimination and retaliation will resign this week, citing intolerable working conditions.

Administrative officer Sally Barnes submitted her resignation in a letter to Washam dated March 16. The resignation is effective Wednesday.

“The working conditions in the Assessor-Treasurer’s Office have been intolerable for more than a year,” Barnes wrote to Washam. “The only reasonable choice you leave me with is to depart employment.”

Barnes has declined to comment in the past and could not be reached for comment this week. You can download a PDF copy of her resignation letter here.

Barnes’ resignation is the latest evidence of conflict between Washam and some of his employees.

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Attorney: Washam can decide who gets laid off at assessor’s office

Dale Washam

Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam has found legal support for his contention that he – not the county’s human resources department – has the authority to determine which employees get the axe as he tries to balance his budget.

As I reported in January, Washam proposed laying off five employees as he sought to trim $609,000 from his budget and reorganize his office. The Teamsters Local Union 117 successfully contested the layoff of one of those employees – supervisor Sally Barnes – and has contested the other layoffs as well.

All of the employees had previously filed complaints against Washam with the county’s human resources department or the state Public Employment Relations Commission. Among other things, the employees claim Washam has abused his authority and wasted taxpayer money. Washam denies all of the allegations.

Barnes’ fate has been at the center of dispute between Washam and County Executive Pat McCarthy.

Washam ordered the human resources department to lay off Barnes. After the union complained, the department determined that supervisor Billie O’Brien should be laid off instead of Barnes. The department contends Barnes and O’Brien are equally qualified for the remaining supervisor’s job, so seniority rules should apply. Barnes has seniority over O’Brien.

Here’s a PDF copy of a Jan. 22 letter from McCarthy to Washam spelling out the executive’s case that human resources has the authority to determine who gets laid off.

Washam says O’Brien is the most qualified supervisor and wants to retain her. He claims he – not human resources – has the authority to determine who gets laid off. Now he has a legal opinion to back up his assertion.

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Washam can’t intervene in unfair labor practice complaint

Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam recently lost an effort to intervene in an unfair labor practices complaint filed against Pierce County.

The complaint, filed by the Teamsters union in September, accuses Washam of discrimination, retaliation and failure to engage in good-faith collective bargaining. However, the respondent named in the case is Pierce County, not Washam.

Washam asked the state Public Employment Relations Commission to intervene in the case, claiming he was a “dual employer” with the county of the employees filing the claim. The commission did not agree and denied his request. You can read its decision here.

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