Assessor Jon Snyder is not ruling out that politics are to blame for orders
coming from Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, to vacate one of the
three assessor offices in the County Administration Building and to give up
the Porter County vehicle used in making field inspections.
Snyder, Evans entered the assessor’s office on Wednesday morning and told
his chief deputy he was making the changes. One was to move the appeals
division office on the second floor of the Administration Building out of
its space within 30 days. That office space in Suite 302 was also set up for
staff to process the plethora of appeals for the Property Tax Assessment
Board of Appeals.
The purchase of the
vehicle, a Ford Explorer, was approved by the Board of Commissioners about a
year ago, Snyder said. The staff uses if for real estate inspections on a
Snyder, who like
Evans is a Republican, claims that Evans never discussed the matter with him
before issuing his orders. He was not in the office any time on Wednesday
and told Evans by phone he wishes to have a meeting on why the changes were
made and how to prepare for them.
But Snyder suspects
that, given the timing, Evans may be retaliating for a letter of support
Snyder mailed to Republican voters supporting Evans’ frequent political
adversary, Jim Biggs, in his primary election bid for a second term on the
County Council. Biggs was renominated Tuesday over challenger Kyle Yelton,
who Evans supported.
Snyder issued a
statement to local media saying he wonders if this is a political attack or,
giving Evans the benefit of the doubt, if this might be “a master plan for
Porter County” in the midst of a collaborative effort to cut costs.
“You can’t tell me
that by doing this on this day that this does not have the appearance of
politics,” Snyder told the Chesterton Tribune.
Snyder said he has
“no intention” of making the changes until action is taken by all three
Commissioners in public.
Evans, for his
part, said that “for a long time” he has talked about his intentions with
Snyder that he would like to consolidate space in his offices. He said his
actions are not politically motivated.
The timing has
nothing to do with the election, Evans continued, because he also authorized
Superior Court VI in Portage to move into the space where the health
department offices used to be and has not heard any complaints there. “I
felt today was a day that I would address our space needs,” said Evans.
The space was given
to Snyder years ago because it had a conference room that the PTABOA could
use for its meetings but those are now being held in the Commissioners’
Chambers, for full use of computers and TV monitors, Evans said.
With the conference
room and extra space in the back, Evans said “that space is way
underutilized” with the small number of staff there and other departments in
the building in need of space. He said the staff could be moved down the
hall to the real estate division where there is room for them.
Snyder differs with
Evans on that point and worries that 30 days will not be sufficient for him
to fully vacate the room. “I have no place to put my people,” he said.
Suite 302 was
originally supposed to be the County Council office, Evans said, which has
seven members and a two-member staff. He said it would make more sense to
move them there as intended because the room they use now is “no bigger than
a broom closet.”
defended his actions, saying his goal was to prioritize the use of space in
the County Building and said that “it is the purview of the president of the
Board of the Commissioners to allocate space in the County building.”
As for the
assessor’s vehicle, Evans said he thinks there is more need for it to be
used by another department, such as the Juvenile Services Center, now that
Snyder recently got approval from the Commissioners to contract with
Pictometry Inc. to produce highly detailed aerial photographs of real estate
properties. The photographs are so that staff doesn’t have to travel to each
property, he said.
In the past,
assessor workers used their own cars and the County would pay the mileage so
they can operate without the vehicle, Evans said.
Snyder said he
feels his office should have a vehicle since other County departments have
them too to perform their duties.
Snyder said Evans
had talked to him more than a year ago about moving the assessor staff, an
idea which Snyder had opposed. He said he offered an alternative plan but
Evans never got back to him about it and since then has not discussed any
changes with him.