After paying a firm $16,500 to spend months to develop a list of candidates, Mecklenburg County is having a hard time hiring a permanent tax assessor.
Interim County Manager Bobbie Shields, who is also the interim tax assessor, had planned to announce the top candidate from that search at Tuesdays board meeting. But he learned Monday the candidate didnt want the job and withdrew his name.
The candidate, from Philadelphia, said the public talk about the assessors office is too toxic and he had job possibilities with a better chance for personal success, Shields told commissioners in an email and again late into Tuesdays commissioners meeting.
Now the hunt starts over. At best, it will take another three months to find Shields replacement.
He has been the interim assessor since early December after former assessor Garrett Alexander resigned in the fallout of the much-maligned 2011 revaluation.
Shields was supposed to hang up his assessors hat June 30. But hell remain in the position until a permanent assessor is hired and takes office.
The board late Tuesday discussed hiring former Union County Tax Administrator Debbie King as a consultant.
The idea is to have someone in the office every day, with feet on the ground and eyes on the operation and a laser focus on all the recommendations, said commissioner Karen Bentley, who chairs the assessor search committee. It would telegraph to applicants that were serious about cleaning things up and getting ready for what needs to be done and whats coming.
Commissioner Trevor Fuller said he didnt see the rationale of double-spending taxpayer money by paying for two people to run the assessors office.
Unless you can show me Mr. Shields is not doing a good job, or that no one in that office knows how to do the things that are necessary, I dont see the point of it, Fuller said. We need to focus on getting the best permanent assessor we can hire.
Commissioner Bill James said he felt Shields isnt doing a good job as assessor because he continues to support the failed revaluation, and Ive got a problem with that.
Were refunding people a lot of money, James told the Observer. That means the revaluation was screwed up.
James said he wants Shields replaced as assessor. I dont believe the county commissioners are getting the straight dope about whats going on in that office, he said.
During the meeting, Shields told commissioners that when commonly used quality measures are applied to the revaluation you cannot say that the 2011 revaluation was flawed. He acknowledged it was a bad revaluation because of poor customer service.
If we had paid more attention to customer service and walked people through the appeals process, there would have been a better outcome, Shields said.
The board instructed Bentleys committee to meet with Shields, Assistant County Manager Dena Diorio and King to define the scope for Kings job and her pay. Commissioners will vote on the committees proposal July 2.
Meantime, Mercers Group Inc. of Atlanta, the search firm hired to find qualified assessor candidates, is obligated to continue the search. Some commissioners were unhappy with Mercers list of candidates. The board instructed county Human Resources Director Chris Peek to contact the firm and define the boards expectations.
They havent been able to find someone who meets our qualifications, James said. Were not Mayberry. We cant just decide to hire Otis to be assessor. Weve got to have someone who is competent to handle a large urban county with a complex set of problems.
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