Tahoe Bonanza

Tax victory could be reversed
Merry Thomas
bonanza staff writer

March 4, 2005

'Tax revolters' victory in lifting an 8 percent addition to Incline's land tax assessment could be in jeopardy if Board of Equalization member Gary Schmidt is voted off the tax board Tuesday, some say.

If the Washoe County commissioners remove Schmidt from the BOE and replace him with a new candidate, it could result in overturning the tax decision, said Maryanne Ingemanson, president of the Village League to Save Incline Assets, the local group protesting its property tax assessments.

The Washoe County Board of Equalization voted Feb. 17 to lift the 8 percent addition to the land tax assessment for 1,200-plus appellants in Incline Village and Crystal Bay. The hearing also determined county assessors had not used new assessment rules and regulations, passed Aug. 4, 2004.

League members learned after their win that Schmidt had received a letter Feb. 15, the eve of these hearings, from Bonnie Weber, chairperson of the Washoe County Board of Commissioners, regarding a meeting set to review his competence as a board member.

"It was a blatant attempt to intimidate him, to get him to resign," Ingemanson said.

"This is an obscene act on their part; it's pure government abuse," said Village League member Les Barta.

Weber's letter states: "In connection with your performance as a Washoe County Board of Equalization member, the Washoe County Commission will consider your character, alleged misconduct, professional competence or physical or mental health ...."

Schmidt surmises that he is being singled out because of his past criticism of the district attorney's office in public forums.

Barta responded to Weber's letter with a letter of his own, calling Schmidt intelligent, meticulous, and honorable. He added that the commissioner's proposed action "would hardly be encouraging for future prospective county board candidates."

Although the meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, March 8 at 2 p.m. at the county commission chambers, is open to the public, commissioners may go into a closed session, Weber wrote. "(It) will return to open meeting to take action," she wrote.

In response, Schmidt has hired an attorney to file suit against the commissioners.

"They're treading me like a county employee, and I'm not," Schmidt said.

He said the county tax board has no authority to remove him from his position; it's up to the state to take action.

Jim Galloway, the commissioner who represents Incline Village in District One, said he is not at liberty to discuss the letter.

"When someone has registered a complaint, we have to treat it in a confidential manner," he said.

As recently as Jan. 28, 2005, in a hearing to select a fire chief for the Reno-Sparks Fire District, commissioners praised Schmidt as one of three candidates.

"They said they had a win-win-win decision," Schmidt said.

This wasn't the only occasion when county commissioners sang his praises. Two years ago, he was appointed to the BOE in a 5-0 vote.

"I was going to resign after this year," Schmidt said. "Now, I will continue it to the district court to find out what happened and why."

At the very least, the move to review his performance "gives the appearance of impropriety," Schmidt added. "It was a poor choice of timing."

Incline Village Realtor John Krolick, a member of the county BOE, said he wasn't aware of the letter but saw no need for the letter or meeting.

"He's created some long days for us, but everyone has a right to freedom of speech," Krolick said.

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