Béla Kovacs – Things Have Turned Political For Kootenai County Assessor
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho — REVISED April 13, 2022 — Based on new information obtained today, this Press Release retracts, nullifies and otherwise supersedes the preceding Press Release by the same headline listed above and issued late Tuesday, April 12, 2022, at 3:51 PM, by candidate, Bela Kovacs.
On Monday, April 11, 2022, Kootenai County Commissioner, Chris Fillios, provided only two-hour’s notice for an unscheduled meeting that was initiated by the Chief Deputy Assessor, Allyson Knapp. Although it is understandable that an elected official can call for a meeting on short notice, doing so is out of the ordinary and in that sense irregular. In the unexpected move, Chris Fillios openly stated that the Commissioners have no say in the matters concerning the issues that take place in the offices of other Elected Officials, including the matters pertaining to the Assessor’s Office, yet, despite that fact, Fillios called for the meeting anyway.
The manner in which this meeting was initiated by Chief Deputy Allyson Knapp revealed and detailed that her actions such as this have had the effect of fomenting disharmony and distrust in the office. A chief deputy of an elected official is the appointee by the elected official of the office and serves as a confidant in the operations of the Office. The information presented by Knapp reveals that she solicited input from individuals outside of the Office (i.e., not county employees) about matters that a chief deputy would normally be expected to coordinate through the elected official. “This is not the first time this has happened. I previously witnessed Allyson making erroneous statements to staff in front of my opponent about a policy decision that in fact was not true.”
Bela added that, “The documentation that Allyson provided in Monday’s meeting reveals that she had solicited statements from people outside of the department, and even outside of the county, which is a major concern when the person doing that is supposed to be a confidant to the Assessor. It is very troubling. The working relationship should be one of coordination and cooperative effort.”
This situation may be a harbinger of what might come in the near future, if Chris Fillios and Bill Brooks get their way by concentrating power in the hands of the Commissioners through a change in the form of county government Study Commission that they initiated last year. All elected officials should be concerned.
The meeting appears to be politically motivated for several reasons. First, a political opponent inside the office, has adversely affected the harmony of the office and poses reasonable concerns as to how it will affect the public. My opponent has made inaccurate statements and such public statements present a false and inaccurate picture and are political cheap shots. It is highly probable and likely that this sort of situation will cause a damper on the morale and harmony of the office. It is likely for such reasons that ICRMP (Idaho Counties Risk Management Program) has created and recommended a draft policy, XIII(B), for counties to adopt so that elected officials have recourse if there is a probable prediction for disruption of the office. Kootenai County, however, has not adopted such a policy. Clearly there seems to be an adverse impact on the harmony of the Office.
Second, it is politically motivated because it appears to be driven by self-protection – although that is an understandable human reaction. Further explanation is necessary…
I initiated investigative efforts as promised in the May 20, 2020, public interview when I was unanimously appointed as the Kootenai County Assessor, and I made the commitment that he would meet with the staff to assess their needs. Through those one-on-one interviews with staff of the appraisal divisions, the employees consistently expressed their unanimous and numerous concerns about workflows, manual process, the computer system, and lack of technological advancements and even some ethical concerns about the historical ways that assessments have been performed in the office in the past. The manual workflow processes are too labor-intensive and are vulnerable to human error. They take too much time and leaves little room for error when considering the many tight statutory deadlines.
Numerous times each year as the property rolls are produced, the staff swear to an oath stating that they have “…made diligent inquiry and examination to ascertain all of the property and personal property…” and that they have, “…not imposed any unjust or double assessment through malice, ill will or otherwise…” and that they have, “…not allowed anyone to escape a just and equal assessment through favor, reward or otherwise…”
The staff take their oath very seriously and they have expressed understandable concerns that the difficult processes can cause an uneasiness about achieving the highest degree of uniformity. They appear to be to very guarded about their work and they take it very, very, personal if their opinions and practices are questioned.
“I understand why employees might be concerned when a new set of eyes come into the office and begins to question why things have been done in certain ways and suggests that there might be a way for improvement. I am asking questions and when the answer is ‘…because we’ve always done it that way, then I become concerned, too.”
Bela Kovacs said, “As a result of the concerns discovered in the meetings, I have dug deeper and asked questions about process. In meeting with the public these topics have come up in the discussions and questions. As representative of the people, I feel it is important to be transparent. However, this approach apparently has had an unnerving effect on the employees. These are all reasonable approaches and concerns to any leader who strives for improvements. It is important for the employees to know that I do respect their hard work and dedication and I have no doubts about their intentions. As Ronald Reagan said, ‘Trust, but verify.’”
The biggest concern is that in the meeting Allyson boldly called for me to renounce my candidacy. This is something that I flatly will not do!
The job description of the Chief Deputy position states that they are to work cooperatively with the Assessor, however this feels very much like the opposite is happening. The voters of Kootenai County should have their say and not be denied a fair election. I am working hard to discover and root-out practices that are inefficient and could be considered non-uniform. I will move forward in running for election as County Assessor and I will keep all legal options open and on the table.
“I am a Conservative Republican candidate that has worked hard to honor my oath of office an provide good service to the citizens of Kootenai County. I will continue to diligently represent the taxpayers, and Republican Party. I will not be intimidated from fulfilling my oath of Office. I do respect the employees and wish for cooperative effort to serve the people of Kootenai County. I look forward to Primary Election Day and beyond, as I continue to serve as your Kootenai County Assessor.”
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