Written by Jerry Engler Tuesday, 27 October 2009 13:10
Citizens demanding that County Appraiser Cindy Magill be fired appeared before the Marion County Commission Monday with petitions signed by 342 taxpayers they called “brave enough to sign.”
“There were others who feared to sign because of possible repercussions,” they said.
At a couple of points during the meeting, Commission Chairman Dan Holub questioned that anyone should have anything to fear because he and fellow commissioners Randy Dallke and Bob Hein affirmed that they find it commendable when citizens express views, whether they agree with them or not.
The group of more than 10 led by Gary Diepenbrock, Jerry Siebert and Lyle Leppke, were joined in the meeting by Magill with members of her staff and by County Attorney Susan Robson to bring the meeting to more than 20 persons.
The citizens’ group challenged Robson’s opening opinion that, according to state statute, it is the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals or the director of property valuation that decides if a county appraiser is to be removed for incompetency or failure to perform well on the job.
The citizens said according to their own legal counsel, it also is a local county commission personnel problem that the commissioners can decide.
The citizens gave each commissioner and each county department head at the meeting, including Magill, a thick packet they said contained copies of the petitions, prepared statements, newspaper clippings, research and letters from other patrons recording incidents of misconduct or incompetency on the part of Magill.
The commissioners determined that they will study the contents before making any decisions. They will meet with Magill and her department employees at 1 p.m. Friday and with the citizens’ group at 1 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2.
Holub said the situation has gone on long enough, and he wants decisions made by the end of the two meetings.
Diepenbrock said that Magill lacks public relations skills, is abrasive and fails to show courtesy and respect to patrons.
Siebert said that in the first instance in which he has ever appealed taxes, he was treated with contempt and told to shut up.
He charged that statements made by Magill then and later in newspapers have been “fragmented and self-serving.”
Siebert said patrons are shown a side of Magill that leads them to believe they either have to accept her judgements “or experience her wrath.”
Leppke said appraisers expect contracts for their work, and Magill has hers.
The commissioners acknowledged that Magill’s four-year contract was renewed last spring.
Leppke said a state official said contracts vary in content from county to county, and that this infers Magill comes under local personnel issues.
He said Magill came to Marion County from another county, rents her home and contributes little to the local economy, while most of the people in the citizens’ group are long-term residents with their own homes and businesses who intend to stay here for life.
Magill said she had received an award for public relations skills when she worked in Johnson County.
“If anyone feels that I slighted them when they came into the office, I apologize,” she said.
The commissioners said they have discussed installing video cameras and recorders in offices such as the appraiser’s and road and bridge that receive many citizens to have a record of what goes on.
Dallke said he wants to know that customers are greeted with a “Hi, how are you? What can I do for you?” type of opening.
Hein said he wouldn’t feel he is ready to make any comments until he studies the packets provided.
Steve Siefert, former mayor of Lost Springs, suggested the commissioners could accomplish the same thing more cheaply by sending an under-cover customer into an office to see how they are treated.