Letter to the Editor

Witch hunt

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Dear Editor,

I feel compelled to respond to several of the articles that the Gazette has published since the whole controversy began in 2015 regarding the Hitchcock County Assessor's office. I read your front page article last week and compared it to the factual written order from the Tax Commissioner. Now, unless I'm mistaken, when Bedore wins four of the allegations and the Department of Revenue wins just one. That would bring the ballgame score to 4-1. In America, that reflects Ms. Bedore winning the case, especially when she won the argument that "NO BIAS" had occurred in assessing properties equally. The only allegation that she lost was some mention of rusted out grain bins that were flat valued. I realize every county assessor encounters these types of structures in the state and every assessor does it differently. Market value is still market value. I certainly would not pay someone to tear down my rusted out grain bin, just to lose money when I sell the scrap iron in town. Not one of the complainers would sell their property for the amount at which it is assessed.

I also read the response written by Terra Riggs, the current Hitchcock County Assessor, prior to the November 2016 General Election (responding to allegations by Frank Steno that led to the recall effort). Terra's response pointed out the amount of delinquent work which had been imposed on the newly elected assessor (Bedore) and the lack of accurate assessments done in the past prior to her entrance into office, which indicated that the new assessor (Bedore) and her employees identified substandard work and an overwhelming number of deficient or neglected assessments. After being elected to office she began working to correct these problems and was there for mere months when the recall campaign against her began. Also, your article from February 2, 2017, refers to the assessor being the only one in the State of Nebraska that correctly identified CRP and CREP acres, even prior to new reform policies of Governor Rickets which now mandate this. It is a shame that the Department of Revenue doesn't even follow up on their own tax directives. Then you want to shoot the messenger? If there was such wrong-doing in that office, why did the other two employees support her, stay and work in the office, and learn from Ms. Bedore?

No, I believe this was nothing more than a political witch-hunt in which a select few convinced a majority of citizens of this county to go along with their agenda.

I was at the first meetings of Recall with numerous state officials, including the State Assessor Ms. Sorensen, as she spoke to the people of Hitchcock County. One of the things that she said about the job of assessor is that a lot of it is "Methodology", and she referred to this term numerous times throughout her speech. The Assessor's office is an elected office by the citizens of the county, the state wanted nothing more than to be in charge and control this office, evident of past years when a few counties foolishly allowed the state to take control and install state-paid officials in local elected office of assessor. Hitchcock was one of those counties, resulting in reduced local control and permitting assessments potentially comparable to more populated areas of this state. The new governor reversed that when he most likely discovered that it was unconstitutional. Yes, the County Assessor is governed by State Statues that mandate how this job is to be outlined and followed, through guidelines of "Methodology". This is evident when you look at other counties which neighbor us. But don't be fooled "We the People" elect our own Assessor, Clerk, Treasurer, and Sheriff.

Put yourself in the shoes of Ms. Bedore for just one moment: You just got elected to office, find out that you have office issues that need to be addressed ASAP, start doing valuations that have been neglected and deadlines set forth by the State that all have to be done by a set time, and have to start defending yourself against a recall effort, started by a select few. I am strong but I don't think I could have done what this woman has and keep my chin up.

The rest of the state should be embarrassed that people from Hitchcock County are behaving this way! It isn't surprising, though. ..consider the history of the county: Back in the late 1800's or early 1900's the courthouse was moved from Culbertson to Trenton in the middle of the night and the county has been at odds ever since. The school districts merged after arguments of school consolidation. In order to move forward, the history should be left in the past. We need to educate ourselves on how our properties are assessed, and what can be done to lower the assessment if we feel they're not fair.

On June 1st taxpayers receive their property values for the year. If we disagree with our valuations, we have the opportunity to protest that value. The County Board of Equalization (County Commissioners) will hear the protests from the taxpayers on the value. The County Board changes values without any written report done by the Department of Revenue or any license to be a certified assessor. Where is the accountability for a system like this? No market analysis or reporting is done by the County Board. They hear the complaints, go to lunch, come back, and make a motion to lower or raise values, or to leave them the same. How can a system like this not have any accountability at all? Our state is in a huge shortfall of funds and Nebraska has the 4th highest property taxes in the nation. State Senators are arguing about where to come up with more tax money. Sales tax, income tax, users tax, etc. The county is also trying to come up with more money. Figure out where your tax dollars go once you write that check.

Be realistic, the messenger is not guilty: 4 to 1!

Concerned citizen,

Christopher Williamson,

Trenton, Neb.

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  • Wasn't there a ruling in Chase county that validated Ms. Bedore?

    -- Posted by Dudley Dawson on Tue, Apr 25, 2017, at 5:52 PM
  • Very well written Mr. Wiliamson Ms. Bedore had her hands full from the beginning not only was the job that she took over a mess but the witch hunt started day one. I agree the findings from the state showed that she clearly was not guilty of what the recall petition said she did but yet here the county sits with someone who lost her job who was way over qualified for this position and would have done the county a great job. These people who carried this recall should be ashamed of themselves and the people who signed it should now look at the facts and realize what they did by not having the facts and being persuaded by these incompetent carriers of this petition. The county commissioners also should be held accountable for this deceitful action. In this case It always shows the intelligence of individuals when they have never protested their taxes, don't even know how much they pay in their county on taxes but sign a recall to get rid of a assessor. It would be nice to see the names of the people that signed it and see how their taxes stack up.

    -- Posted by Iron Man on Tue, Apr 25, 2017, at 7:19 PM
  • Excellent points Mr. Williamson.

    -- Posted by dennis on Thu, Apr 27, 2017, at 12:19 PM
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