An After-Action Report on the County Assessor's Office

In the fire service, one of the many reports fire leadership needs to complete is an After-Action Report. An AAR. It is to assess the emergency call after the fire trucks and personnel are safely back at the station. To go over the good, bad and ugly. For the last six years as the Routt County Treasurer, our office has seen the latter two of the three downstairs in the Assessor’s Office. It is in the best interest of the taxpayers of Routt County to know what happens in their local government.

In April of this year, Assessor Peterson appeared at the Treasurer’s Office in an extremely unprofessional rage over what he considered to be an improper paperwork submission. To quote a Treasurer staff member, he was “in a very agitated state. Gary’s face was flushed, eyes widely open and he leaned over the counter very angry…intimidating manner”. Another staff member stated, “Gary was loud, accusatory, intimidating and belligerent…his behavior completely unprofessional and inappropriate”. A third staff member wrote “he was very hostile at the counter…”

This action prompted the Treasurer’ to file a police report regarding Assessor Peterson’s aggression, (Incident S1801715) along with a copy of Routt County policy concerning violence in the workplace and a letter instructing him that if he has business with the Treasurer’s Office, he must contact Chief Deputy Treasurer or Treasurer directly.

Here's the link of the Police Report that ex-reporter Scott Franz received along with the personnel policy that Assessor Peterson needs to follow to safe guard the office from his rants and aggressive workplace behavior.

Moreover, the community needs to know exactly what Peterson believes of policies he signs.

“I don’t give a rat’s ass about your policies”, was penned in an email in March 2017. Link.

Rat's Ass #2.png

Yet another example of this a blatant disregard of proper procedures, policies and laws.

Part of the Treasurers’ role is to pursue delinquent taxes. To effectively collect Personal Property taxes, in July of this year, the Treasurer’s Office was required to submit a CORA request to the Assessor’s Office for completed declaration forms for Personal Property accounts. These files are required to collect delinquent Personal Property taxes! After the Assessor’s Office completed the work so the Treasurer’s Office could begin collection, the Assessor presented an invoice for that paperwork totaling $435! With the additional over exaggeration of papers sliding across the polished counter. That’s right, one county elected official trying to charge another for data to collect taxes. By his actions, Assessor Peterson effectively handcuffed the Treasurer from performing her duties.

Screen Shot 2018-12-19 at 2.00.07 PM.png
Screen Shot 2018-12-19 at 2.00.24 PM.png

In August of this year, Assessor Peterson instructed the Treasurer’s Office to process a series of Tax Roll Corrections dating back 13 years for a particular property owner. He instructed that the Treasurer should “Collect the tax WITH interest, such interest should be calculated to accrue from the date the taxes would have become delinquent”. More on that in a moment. He stated, “The omitted property is considered by the Assessor to be a fraudulent action by the property owner, meaning the omission was committed with the intent to evade taxation”. And who was the property owner? Assessor Peterson’s Deputy Assessor. When asked what actions were taken in this event of supposed fraud, Assessor Peterson replied “I can only say that several disciplinary actions were taken with regards to the employee’s employment, but those matters are personnel related issues that are not the affairs of the Treasurer”. The Deputy Assessor is still employed by the Assessor even after these supposed fraudulent tax evasion actions. After 13 years of omitting their own taxes to the tune of over $9,200 and almost $6,300 in interest, she kept her high-paying position as a county employee.

Screen Shot 2018-12-19 at 2.04.52 PM.png

That brings us to the latest event in this saga. Assessor Peterson has gone on record, most recently in the Steamboat Pilot, as saying “She’s ignoring state statutes and charging interest illegally”. This quote is in reference to the current legal action the Treasurer has taken against the Commissioners regarding the illegal refunding of interest to a taxpayer who received a tax roll correction for omitted property. Peterson made this statement, despite the fact that he read a legal opinion debunking his assertion. According to Assessor Peterson, the Treasurer should charge delinquent interest to the Assessor’s Office employee but not to Mystic Canyon Ranch, represented by Christy Belton, a public supporter of then Commissioner Hermacinski’s re-election campaign. You can’t have it both ways, Mr. Peterson. The law is the law.  

But wait, there’s more! One more example of the dishonesty. In November, the Assessor requested that a team member of the Treasurers’ Office “delay or avoid moving forward” the Treasurers’ Deed process when multiple investors had already started the Treasurer’s Deed process because he readily admitted he dropped the ball. The deceitfulness of asking a county employee to break Colorado State Law is how this Assessor operates and will continue to operate.

Screen Shot 2018-12-19 at 2.07.51 PM.png

As you know, we get the government we deserve. No After-Action Report can stand alone and fix the problems listed above. If only there were enough outraged taxpayers to demand a change, then and only then we will deserve good local government.