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102WVN #102: Special Report - Assessor Resigns

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  • waylandvoters2
    Aug 5, 2005
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      Wayland Voters Network
      August 5, 2005

      ASSESSOR RESIGNS, ALLEGES INEFFICIENCY,INEQUITY, SELF-INTEREST

      One of the three members of the Board of Assessors resigned on Monday,
      saying the board is mismanaged, capricious and self-interested.

      This leaves the board shorthanded at an important time as the year-end
      deadline for state approval of new property tax assessments
      approaches.

      "I am embarrassed to have spent so much BoA time on issues
      surrounding the chairman's assessment," Marcia Malmfeldt said. "I do
      not want to sit on a board that spends time this way."

      Malmfeldt was elected to the board in April to fill a vacancy created
      by the resignation of Frank Aurelio.

      In the past she chaired the election campaigns of chairman Tom
      Maglione and member Susan Rufo, and the three backed a losing effort
      at Town Meeting for additional resources to make assessments more
      equitable.

      They said that because of inadequate data and procedures some houses
      sell for prices far above assessed values while others sell at below
      assessment. Recent sales in Wayland include a house on Pelham Island
      Road that sold for $665,000, 52 percent above assessment, and one on
      High Rock Road that sold for $487,000, 25 percent less than
      assessment.

      Malmfeldt's resignation is effective immediately.

      Board of Selectmen Chairman Michael Tichnor said the selectmen and
      remaining assessors will meet as soon as possible as a joint body
      prescribed by law to appoint a successor to serve until the next town
      election in April 2006.

      "The job has been posted," Tichnor said. He hopes for candidates with
      appropriate experience.

      The resignation came as a surprise, Tichnor said: "Nobody on our
      board knew about it."

      In statements to the board and an interview with WVN, Malmfeldt
      asserted that the board has granted assessment decreases "in a
      somewhat arbitrary manner." The board received 275 abatement
      requests, as of Monday it had 46 left to consider, and it had already
      overspent its budget for abatements, Malmfeldt said. She added that
      the per capita number of abatement requests is much higher than in
      most towns.

      Some abatements seemed to be given for little reason except
      taxpayers' claims that they can't afford to pay higher taxes,
      Malmfeldt said. She predicted that abatement requests could skyrocket
      unless the system becomes demonstrably more equitable.

      "Too much time is being spent on abatements," said Malmfeldt. If new
      information changes the value of a particular house, "all who are so
      affected should have their assessment adjusted, and not in a case-by-
      case abatement process."

      Responding to Malmfeldt's criticisms, Maglione said in a telephone
      interview, "In three months she can tell what's going on?"

      He said that Malmfeldt hadn't yet been trained and certified as an
      assessor as he and Rufo had.

      "She always seemed to have another agenda," Maglione said. "I think
      Susan and I have accomplished quite a bit."

      Malmfeldt, a realtor who has lived in Wayland for more than 30 years,
      was upset by Chairman Maglione's efforts to have his own assessment
      reduced. When Maglione's request was brought up at the June 21
      assessors' meeting, Malmfeldt said, "I will not hear that." An angry
      discussion followed.

      Maglione cited the legal rule of necessity, enabling officials to take
      action when a board is unable to make decisions in the usual way.

      "Do you want me to get a ruling from town counsel?" Malmfeldt asked.

      Rufo, who has also requested an abatement, said that Malmfeldt was
      denying Maglione the chance to have his case heard.

      Moments later, Maglione abruptly declared the meeting adjourned.

      Malmfeldt told WVN she believes it would be unethical for one member
      of the board to rule on another's request.

      In her resignation statement Malmfeldt said, "I am concerned about
      the time, business and talent management of this board." A months-
      long delay in signing contractor agreements endangers timely state
      approval of new assessment figures, she contended.

      Malmfeldt said Maglione and Rufo ignored her suggestions for bringing
      the system up to date. She has been active in assessment matters for
      several years. Among other things, she recommends a five-member board.

      Malmfeldt and her husband have sold their house and plan to leave
      Wayland. Though selling the house had been in their plans for some
      time, the aim wasn't necessarily to leave town, Malmfeldt told WVN.
      She said she would have remained on the board longer if she had felt
      she could accomplish anything.

      The resignation complicates a challenging situation, Maglione said.

      "It's a difficult time," he said, noting that one of the three paid
      staff members in the Assessors Office has also resigned. "We have a
      lot of work ahead of us."

      – - Michael Short, WVN Editor