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Part II: Taxes Too High? Blame the Former Assessor

Whose fault is it? Patch obtained documents through an open records request that shows multiple errors and omissions in the assessing process from 2008 to 2010. The result was $4.5 million in value not added to the village's assessment and tax rolls.

This is the second of a two-part series on assessor services in the Village of Mount Pleasant. Click to read the first installment, in which Patch explained how $4.5 million in value was left off the tax rolls. The village says former assessor Ed Potter provided substandard service, and didn't up the assessments for properties with significant remodels or additions. 

Interim Administrator Ron Meyer told Patch the village wanted to end its relationship with Potter because of substandard service. In February, the village transferred the assessor contract to McHugh and his company, Affiliated Property Valuation Services LLC.

"The transfer of the contract was seamless and cost-effective, resulting in the restoration of $4.5 million of tax-based valued property to the Village of Mount Pleasant,” Meyer said.

Potter said he can't comment on the village’s allegations of substandard performance. He said he was never approached with any concerns and that he can’t confirm or deny whether or not facts and parcels were added.

“I have not seen the same documents you have,” he told Patch.

Potter did say he hired Brenda Hannula as a deputy assessor in February 2008, and that he trusted she was going out to do inspections and adding the increased values to the tax rolls.

“She kept track of new building permits and was supposed to update the added values as she went along," Potter said. "I assumed she was doing the job correctly, but I understand I held the contract and the buck stops with me. I thought she was being diligent and had no reason to believe otherwise."

McHugh counters that by saying Hannula did go out and do the inspections as needed, but that it was Potter's job to calculate the new values and enter them into the assessment roll and tax rolls as well.

No Recovery Possible

While the assessments have been adjusted, the village can't recover the money lost during the years when the increases were missing. According to state statute, Mount Pleasant cannot capture lost value from the past; it can only move forward.

Part of the problem is that Potter never carried the proper Errors and Omissions insurance for his assessment business. When the village asked Potter in January to provide proof of insurance, he was only able to produce a policy for his appraisal service.

"Mike Andreasen asked me to have an E&O policy, which I do for my appraisal company," Potter said. "I was never pressed to have one for my assessor services."

Trustee Karen Albeck said she was surprised to learn about the omissions and even more distressed about the lack of insurance which keeps the village from recovering lost revenue.

"It's unsettling that the company with whom we contracted was not providing the proper insurance required in the contract," she said. "If the proper insurance had been in place as required, the village could have recovered some of that lost revenue.

Though village assessments in general went down 9 percent this year, some property owners did see an increase. McHugh estimates around 15 percent of those property taxpayers are in the group that was never assessed properly after they pulled a building permit.

"The added values were put on the 2011 assessments," he said. "A portion either went up or stayed the same as a direct result of the values being picked up."

What Residents Can Expect

McHugh said everything from 2008-2010 has been caught and dealt with appropriately. He's also gone through the database to be sure everything lines up. Moving forward, McHugh said, he will keep a log of residents who pull permits for work he considers major. Then, he will send a letter telling the property owner they will be subject to an inspection and potentially a new assessment.

Albeck is pleased that McHugh was able to correct the errors for 2011.

"I'm grateful that Dan was hired by Ed because Dan uncovered the omissions and brought the situation to the board's attention," she said.

Meyer confirmed that McHugh has the required E&O insurance.

Milkie agreed.

"Dan has gone above and beyond the situation to clean up our records," she added.

A system of checks and balances is being implemented, Milkie added, including having McHugh report more frequently to the Village Board.

"We're not looking for intricate details, but certainly snapshots or forecasts and trends of changes in the village," she said. "We don't want to be caught off-guard again."

McHugh is scheduled to give a presentation to the board at its May 14 meeting. VIllage residents are invited to attend and participate in the conversation. Board meetings begin at 7 pm on the second and fourth Mondays of the month at Village Hall, 8811 Campus Drive.

Concerned resident May 01, 2012 at 02:28 PM
I seem to remember a group a few years back (was it COG or something like that?) who had a website and posted articles objecting to Potter ever being hired in the first place. The transition from trustee to tax assessor was shady, just like the hiring of Andreasen years ago was illegal. (Andreasen was village president and used his influence as president to move to the $90k+ per year job without an external search being done.) So that group was right that the Potter hire was a bad idea. Can we get that group back? We need them more than ever.
Mike Devine May 01, 2012 at 05:19 PM
In 2007 a group of citizens were signing petitions; for Direct legislation; about the new village hall when Trustee Potter presented a motion to change the spending ordinance. Quelling the petitioners at the last second. He then resigned his trustee position, and was miraculously the low bidder for the $165K plus Assessor job. The administrator and Board highly agreed with this move. Why? This was patronage in my opinion.
William McGinttany May 01, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Is this the same Ed Potter who applied to be the Village Administrator recently?
Heather Asiyanbi May 02, 2012 at 01:06 AM
@William - Ed Potter did apply for the vacant position last fall when the village first advertised for the job. I asked him about that application, and he confirmed that he submitted his materials for consideration. He said that with the recent developments concerning his assessor service contract and the village looking to use an external recruiting process he thought it was probably not going to happen even though he feels he's well qualified for the job.
William McGinttany May 02, 2012 at 02:58 AM
I'm taken back by your conversation with Ed Potter that he believes he's "well qualified" to lead the village when your story clearly indicates he could not manage an individual department. His attitude reminds me of a quote from one of the Tammany Hall corruption defendents " I sees my opportunities and takes them your Honor". God Bless the Mount Pleasant officials that ran this scoundrel off.

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