Claudia Ortega

Claudia Ortega

It seems that a handful of people thought that the recall effort would cease following the meeting on Wednesday with the county and state tax commissioners. Nothing could be further from the truth. We need new leadership.

That meeting was a perfect opportunity for the assessor to accept responsibility for her ineptitude and her lack of candor, but to date, Sheri Davies, the county tax assessor, has failed to accept any responsibility for the fiasco that she has created.

In my opinion she has repeatedly deflected and blamed the state tax commission for her failures and her inability to perform her duties. First she blamed the software, saying that it was new. The state commission refuted that at the meeting by stating that the software had been installed and implemented last October.

Then she blamed the state tax commission, saying that they had shut all the systems down for over 2 weeks and kept her staff from having access to the data. I believe the state tax commission refuted that at the meeting by stating that they had never shut down any systems.

Davies also claimed that she had reassessed the properties because the state had sent her a letter stating that Bannock County had been out of compliance for years and that if she didn’t reassess that the state officials would come in and do it in a more heavy-handed manner.

The state commission refuted that at the meeting by explaining the impossibility of any county being out of compliance on valuations from even one year to the next because state law doesn’t allow it. One of the commissioners even offered to show the file with the last 10 years’ valuations.

Three absolute and flagrant untrue statements by Sheri Davies, refuted by the state commission, on the record.

Toward the end of the meeting, Davies was confronted by homeowners who had been denied public information by her because supposedly Idaho is a non-disclosure state. She responded to this with two more untrue statements; first she said that her office had been told not to give the information out, then she switched gears and flat out denied telling people that she would not give out the information they were requesting.

A handful of the people she personally turned away were in the room during this exchange.

When questioned about the multiple dates given by the assessor to the newspaper which resulted in thousands of homeowners being denied their due process, the commissioners blamed the press, saying that things had possibly been misquoted and misreported. This was an ironic statement considering the ISJ had just defended them in their editorial the day prior to the meeting.

It makes one wonder how the ISJ feels about having their journalistic integrity questioned by those they had defended.

The most surprising thing though, was that at no point did the county commissioners hold Sheri Davies accountable. They never rebuked her for publicly making untrue statements to the taxpayers about the circumstances. Twice, Commissioner Brown, stated that of the 600 appeals heard, that 100-plus had been rolled back to 2018 because when those homeowners had their appeal hearings, more information was required by the Board of Equalization from the assessor, yet that information was never received from the assessor. They never rebuked her for not doing her job. They never held her accountable.

The commissioners are in this mess because they failed to hold the assessor accountable from the beginning. Instead, they tried to fix her mess and cover for her. They even publicly stated that they were proud of her and the job she’s done. Given all that has transpired, there is no debating that she is incompetent and completely unqualified to perform the job for which she was elected.

She is directly responsible for the mess we are all in.

Leadership is all about accountability. Leadership is not about never making a mistake, but it is about owning

one’s mistakes and rectifying them. Leadership is about holding people around you accountable for their actions, their choices and their words. A good leader knows that making difficult decisions and holding people accountable may cost them friends, but will gain them respect.

The recall effort continues because the assessor, Sheri Davies, has proven that she cannot be trusted and does not accept responsibility for her actions. The commissioners are being recalled because they lack the leadership skills required for the position to which they were elected.

The people of this county demand transparency and honesty in our local elected officials. The people want new leadership.

This column was written by Claudia Ortega of the Pocatello/Bannock Homeowners’ Alliance.