Tahoe Bonanza

Protesters fear decision reversal

Bonanza Photo - Brian D. Schultz Washoe County Commissioner Jim Galloway spoke with Incline residents at a casual meeting Friday afternoon at the IVGID board room.
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Merry Thomas

March 6, 2005

When Washoe County Commissioner Jim Galloway met Friday afternoon for his monthly meeting with Incline Village residents, his constituents bombarded him with questions about the county's decision to review tax appeal board member Gary Schmidt in a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

Many of them expressed outrage regarding the impending hearing, fearing the reversal of a Feb. 16 decision to eliminate an 8 percent increase in taxable land values if Schmidt is removed from the county Board of Equalization.

"This action is extremely unfortunate and ill-advised," said Les Barta, a board member of the Village League to Save Incline Assets, a group that has been protesting property tax assessments. "He (Schmidt) is the hardest worker and he expresses himself freely. This is the ugliest form of cronyism and government abuse I've ever seen."

If Schmidt is replaced with someone hand-chosen by county commissioners, it could overturn a decision the county board made in February in favor of the Incline Village protesters - a decision that reversed a proposed 8 percent increase in property tax valuations.

Schmidt received a letter about the personnel hearing from Bonnie Weber, chair of the Washoe County Board of Commissioners, the day before more than 1,200 Incline Village residents were to present their common tax complaints in mass hearings.

The dozen or so members of the Village League who attended the meeting Friday speculated that such an action could have been an attempt to try and intimidate Schmidt or get him to resign from the board.

Barta called the letter a "significant attempt to intimidate his vote," and said "it would be best now for the commissioners to apologize to Mr. Schmidt."

Schmidt arrived near the end of the meeting and passed out an e-mail memo from Washoe County Manager Katy Singlaub to commissioners Bonnie Weber and Bob Larkin about the hearing.

In the Feb. 10 e-mail, Singlaub wrote, "I just met with Mr. Sparks, the Chairman of the Board of Equalization, and he is going to quit if we don't do anything about Gary Schmidt immediately. Gary's vendetta against the entire District Attorney's Office is completely interfering with the proceedings. ... I have asked the D.A.'s office to give me legal options immediately. I would advise you to call for a closed personnel session for Gary with the Board of County Commissioners."

"I believe that alone is cause for her dismissal as county manager," Schmidt said Friday.

Galloway told his constituents he could not say anything about the allegations until he knew what the charges were against Schmidt, and he will learn about those at the hearing on Tuesday.

"How can I respond when I don't know what the complaint is?" he asked. "I don't know that the county commissioners want to do anything."

He added that Schmidt would be treated like a county employee during the personnel hearings, and that the letter simply reflects attributes listed on the county employee review form.

Village League president Maryanne Ingemanson read from a letter she received, which was sent to the board of commissioners by Incline resident B.F. Engleman, Jr. in defense of Schmidt.

"I think we need independent thinkers to conduct the affairs of Washoe County, within the legal codes intended to guide them, and I believe Mr. Schmidt is such a person," Engleman's letter said.

The hearing regarding Schmidt is scheduled for 2 p.m. in the commissioners' chambers in Building A at the Washoe County complex, off Wells and Ninth streets in Reno.

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