Written by Jerry Engler Tuesday, 03 November 2009 13:19
The efforts of a group that passed petitions calling for the dismissal of Marion County Appraiser Cindy Magill have failed.
At Monday’s Marion County Board of Commissioners meeting, a motion to fire Magill made by Commissioner Randy Dallke died for lack of a second.
Prior to the recommendation, Commission Chairman Dan Holub and Commissioner Bob Hein had made statements that they found the group’s reasons inadequate for her dismissal.
The citizens’ group, led by Gary Diepenbrock, Jerry Siebert and Lyle Leppke, alleged that Magill has been impolite to patrons and lacked public-relations skills. They said her professional judgments have been inadequate or incompetent.
It was a meeting in which tone and language occasionally tended toward confrontation, particularly between citizens’ leaders and Holub.
At the end of the meeting, Magill and the commissioners discussed, as is usual in smaller-population rural counties, that last July’s agreement for Magill’s employment as an appointed employee was merely renewed.
Magill said contracts are usually drawn up in larger counties, with more “perks” for appraisers involved.
Due to the recent challenges, the commissioners suggested it may be that Magill should have a more formal contract. They asked her to check with other counties for examples.
Magill said she would also want a personal attorney involved from now on to safeguard her interests.
Last Friday, Oct. 30, the commissioners met in multiple executive sessions—sometimes with both Magill and County Attorney Susan Robson and sometimes only Robson.
A special meeting was set for Monday with the citizens’ group present in the crowded commission room and with Magill supported by her office employees.
Holub opened the meeting by calling for a five-minute executive session for personnel.
Diepenbrock challenged the move, saying he thought the reason for the meeting was for the commissioners to hear the citizens before making a decision.
Holub acknowledged that everything that had to be said probably could be stated publicly.
Dallke opened by saying that the citizens were to be commended for following democratic processes in addressing what they saw as problems with Magill. He said the commissioners are there to hear people and help them, no matter whether “they are going down the right road.”
Dallke said “our appraiser” appears to be doing her job, but that the 342 persons who signed petitions shouldn’t be ignored either.
He said he had his own issues about whether valuations of property were done right. He referred to an auction in the Peabody area where a building sold for $500, despite being “well advertised and well attended.”
Because of incidents such as that, Dallke said he had voted against renewing Magill’s employment in July.
“I got outvoted by these gentlemen here,” Dallke said, referring to the other two commissioners. “There are still a few things not quite right. This time, my vote would still be no, but I’m ready to move on.”
Hein said, “I’ve had a lot of people contact me. Some say Cindy is very good and professional in what she has done. Then some say they are very upset with her.
“At the time, I voted to reappoint her because I looked at what she had been able to straighten out over the last four years. Right now, I’d have to vote to retain her.
“I’d like to work together and get these things straightened out.”
Holub said he had gone through the letters, statements and petitions from the citizens’ group given in packets to the commissioners. He said he had spent time calling persons who had signed the petitions.
“Cindy has only handled 31 tax appeals, and perhaps talked to another 70 people about tax problems,” Holub said.
“Of the 342 people on the petitions, a lot of them had never ever filed a tax appeal. They just signed a petition because they were asked to. Many of them wouldn’t know Cindy if they saw her on the street.
“It sounds like a lot of people signed, but there’s what, 8,000 voters in this county?” Holub added. “I don’t want to get into a he said, she said thing today.”
Holub said he had talked to representatives of the state property valuation offices, and they confirmed that by state statutes Magill had done nothing for the state to dismiss her.
Ratings from the state for work done by the appraiser’s office are high.
Holub said Magill has done a commendable job in guiding Marion County through state requirements that often are written for much more populous counties.
“At this time, I don’t feel like there are any grounds here to fire Cindy from her job,” Holub said.
Diepenbrock replied that 342 people whom Holub and the other commissioners represent had signed the petitions, and that “you represent us,” and “we write your paychecks.”
He said that was reason enough for the commissioners to consider Magill a local personnel issue and dismiss her.
Diepenbrock said, “We’re not making these things up. We’ve all got better things to do, too.... These are 342 signatures opposed to her. The only support I see here for her are these people who work for her and Dan.
“I don’t know what more we can do if you care more for her than you do for this many people (on the petitions). Maybe this is your problem, and I don’t know what you’re doing here as a commissioner then.”
Diepenbrock said perhaps voters should be recalling Holub.
Holub acknowledged that sometimes it is difficult and unpleasant to be a commissioner. But as a commissioner, he would make what he felt was the right decision despite outcomes.
Siebert said the citizens were there because their hearts were in it, and because they had suffered for real mistakes made by Magill. He contended that adequate provisions hadn’t been made on his own property to depreciate concrete laid in the 1970s leaving him to pay taxes at 2009 values.
Dallke was challenged by the citizens and told to proceed to do so by Holub, to make a motion to dismiss Magill if he felt called to.
In making the motion, he said he did so based on the 342 signers of the petitions who deserved to be heard.
After a long moment of silence, Holub, as chairman, pronounced “the motion dies for lack of a second.”