City News

City assessor dismisses validity of ethics complaint against mayor

Citing oversight structures, city assessor Michelle Drea said an ethics complaint alleging Mayor Paul Soglin influenced property evaluations did not have any validity. 

Image By: Jon Yoon

Following a complaint filed against Madison Mayor Paul Soglin by a former city employee, City Assessor Michelle Drea responded with evidence that the alleged action would be impossible to execute.

On Dec. 13, 2018, former Madison Assistant City Assessor and commercial supervisor Laura Doherty alleged Soglin launched a “deceptive and inappropriate” investigation into her actions because she aired grievances about poor commercial property assessment practices. Doherty argued Soglin violated multiple ethics codes in his actions and changed practices for his own self-interests as opposed to those of the state.

In order to increase public awareness of state oversight, Drea released a statement Monday refuting the possibility of unfair assessment practices. She argued the ability for local officials to influence the assessment process is “negligible,” citing the oversight by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue as preventive forces.

“No employee nor government official could artificially raise or lower assessments because Madison’s assessments do not occur in a vacuum,” Drea said. “We are a part of a larger taxation process that involves checks and balances on the local and state level.”

She explained how each municipality is required to submit four Wisconsin Department of Revenue reports each year and thus must remain transparent. The state also has the power to intervene to reevaluate a municipality if assessment practices do not meet state-wide expectations.

Drea also presented the process after evaluation, in which municipality assessments are equalized in order to guarantee uniformity around the state. She stressed that these municipal assessments are “crucial” to both Madison as a city and municipalities state-wide.

In her complaint, Doherty alleged commercial property developers, who are major contributors to Soglin’s campaign, met with the mayor to sway his assessment practices in order to benefit themselves. Soglin confirmed this meeting but denied the allegations. However, Drea described it as “nearly impossible” for anyone to influence an assessment to “any large degree.”

Drea denied the claims against Soglin had any validity. 

“Simply put, significant influence on assessments cannot happen with the level of oversight and interconnectedness that is involved with property taxation in this state,” she said.

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