Letter: Government needs to follow its own rule of law

Editor,

The issue of the rule of law comes up repeatedly in the impeachment proceedings of President Trump. Was he within the rule of law to inquire about corruption in the Ukrainian government? Did that include inquiring as to interference with our 2016 election? Was the rule of law violated with the inquiry of possible kickbacks to Joe and Hunter Biden?

We think of government following their own rule of law as a given, but I think we have extensive corruption in our own backyard concerning the rule of law.

Let me offer examples:

Our own Island County Assessor Engle, I believe, refuses to comply with Washington statutes as she determines our real property values. In a recent public records request, the assessor disclosed that the assessor does not adjust property valuation for government-imposed encumbrance restrictions on private land, such as wetlands and habitat protection encumbrances. The assessor does not adjust comparable sale values by the date of that comparable sale as it differs from the date of assessment. Values change over time. The assessor uses comparable sales/property grid software that does not adjust valuations for partially completed construction, view quality if any, government encumbrances, date of sale, depreciation differences in improvements, or differences in land valuation. All these attributes affect value. All valuation adjustments are required by rule of law.

The Island County Board of Equalization, in real property appeals, does not decide appeals based upon a preponderance of evidence when assessor errors in data and methodology have been proven. And the Board of Equalization only will decide the total of land and improvements valuations, not each separately as is required by law.

Case law, that applies only to commercial property assessment, is cited as an excuse for this violation of the rule of law.

And the state level violations of the rule of law are no better:

The Department of Revenue is supposed to provide oversight to the county assessors, but allows non-compliant software, allows no date of sale adjustment to values, allows only total valuation to be decided in appeal. All these examples, I believe, violate the rule of law

The attorney general’s office was asked by Rep. Dave Paul, to offer an opinion on the case law University Village v. King County, referred to above. After first accepting this request, the attorney general’s office, 45 days later, decided not to offer this opinion.

Why? Political? Because administrative law (that is how the agencies implement statute law) was determined to be more important than complying with statute law.

The state Board of Tax Appeals is another example of rule of law violations, I believe. Administratively, they too only decide total valuation in appeal. They ignore the appeal decision standard requirement based upon a preponderance of evidence. They ignore case law that clearly indicates that view has value. In addition, the state Board of Tax Appeals groups hearings of different years together as one. They recently decided my appeal for a valuation date of seven years ago.

Meanwhile assessor errors continued.

The governor’s office has the duty of providing oversight over state agencies. I have pointed out many of these same violations to the governor’s staff, and they do absolutely nothing about it. Again the rule of law is ignored.

So, we can’t look to the federal level and the impeachment proceedings as the only test of the rule of law.

In our own backyard, I believe the rule of law is commonly violated by our state and Island County governments. If we as citizens don’t fight against corruption in our own government, and take the time to be informed when we vote, how can we expect better? Shout to Rep. Norma Smith. She has turned a deaf ear to all this.

We didn’t have a state senator to represent us for some time — Barbara Bailey quit before the end of her term.

Do our elected officials, do our state and county agencies, feel that they know better than the citizens who elected them? Our recent local election has demonstrated how creative our legislators can be when it comes to increasing tax revenues. If only they could be this hard-working and creative in operating government more efficiently, and in fighting corruption. Government following its own rule of law would be a great start.

Tim Verschuyl

Oak Harbor

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