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    BREAKING NEWS: UPDATE: Sheriff: Suspect in Erica Smith murder committed suicide

    Board gives final nod to assessor transfer

    The real property assessment function will be shifted to the Loudoun County Commissioner of the Revenue for the first time since the 1980s, the county Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday.

    Following the recommendation from the board’s finance and government operations committee, as well as the board-appointed Government Reform Commission, the supervisors followed through with a proposal to transfer the maintenance of appraisal and property records from a county assessor department to the elected office of commissioner of revenue, currently held by Republican Bob Wertz.

    Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), chairman of the finance committee, said the move eliminates any appearance of impropriety. Buona explained that in the past, when the assessment duties fell within the county assessor’s department, the board had direct control and oversight of that office.

    Transferring the assessment functions to the commissioner revenue in essence puts the acting assessor—the commissioner of revenue—and the board of supervisors, who set the real estate tax rate, on an even plain. Moreover, the commissioner of revenue was already responsible for commercial assessments, Buona noted.

    Wertz has stated to the board he was willing to take on the additional duties, which include overseeing the all operations of the county assessor office.

    More than 30 employees currently serving in the assessor’s office will now be under the watch of the commissioner of revenue.

    In the 1980s, the Loudoun County assessor functions were moved from the revenue commissioner’s office to the county’s finance department, where it remained until 2006, at which point the board created a separate assessor’s department. At that time, the assessor became one of three county employees hired directly by the Board of Supervisors.

    The assessor-revenue commissioner transfer will become effective later this month.

    On Dec. 4, the Loudoun County Democratic Committee (LCDC) sent out a statement opposing the switch. The LCDC called to attention the fact Wertz is an active fundraiser for the Virginia 10th Congressional District Republican Committee.

    “The proposed merger risks significant corruption or conflicts of interest by putting near-complete power over the county revenue base in the hands of an official who takes campaign contributions and is actively involved in partisan politics,” the statement notes.

    Members of the all-Republican Board of Supervisors laughed off those charges, saying if the Democrats were concerned about politics playing a role in property assessment, the LCDC could have also been critical of the previous assessor structure. With a county assessor department, the Board of Supervisors had direct control over the hiring or firing of the county assessor.

    Former Loudoun County Assessor Todd Kaufman was fired in June after a series of closed-door discussions and a controversial placement on administrative leave.

    Kaufman has filed a lawsuit against the county for defamation of character.

    Comments

    The Northern Virginia Public Corruption/Government Fraud Task Force may still be operating. The task force appears to be focused on federal funds.

    www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/28/AR2008052802974.html

    “We’re not standing here saying that the environment is systemic of corruption,” Joseph Persichini Jr., head of the FBI’s Washington field office, said at a news conference announcing the initiative. “It’s reasonable to believe that if a high amount of dollars are coming into a region, that’s opportunity. . . . We believe that every citizen is entitled to ethical public service.”

    To report possible corruption call 703-686-6225, or e-mail nova.corruption@ic.fbi.gov.


    Perhaps under the previous structure, the assessor was uncorruptable, so he was fired. Now we have a structure where the CoR reports to the GOP 10th CD chair (an unrecused GRC member), and he raises funds for a political organization and for the county. If CoR employees blow the whistle on political favoratism, they can be fired. They’ve lost their whistleblower protections. Ha, ha, ha that’s so funny. Merry Christmas taxpayers!


    About Mr. Buona’s comment that the Commissioner of Revenue was already performing assessments of commercial property:  This statement is factually incorrect.  The Commissioner of Revenue was NOT responsible for these assessments; the County Assessor’s office was responsible for them.  It is shocking that the Chairman of the Finance Committee is either so poorly informed or, to the contrary, knows the facts but is disdainful of the truth.

    Mr. Buona also explained “that in the past, when the assessment duties fell within the county assessor’s department the Board had direct control and oversight of that office.”  This, too, is not true.  The Board hired the County Assessor; however the Assessor reported directly to the County Administrator, never to the Board.  It was the County Administrator, not the Board who wrote his annual performance evaluation. This is clearly spelled out in the ordinance which is being changed to move the office.

    The result is that we now will have ONE elected official acting as the County Assessor, with employees who he, and he alone, can fire at will. (Previously, it took the votes of five supervisors to fire the assessor, as anyone who has followed the Kaufmann saga will remember.) This leaves the path wide open for corruption.  Any employee can now be ordered to assess the property of a “friend” of the Commissioner or any particular supervisor at a lower rate and face the threat of immediately being fired if he or she fails to do so

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