While the local newspaper and TV media outlets* have completely ignored the mounting evidence of improper actions between the City Assessor and Mayor Rich David, City Council members have been quietly continuing the conversation at business meetings and work meetings the last two months.
In fact, at the April 15 work session meeting, there was unanimous and bipartisan agreement to have the City Assessor appear before the Council to answer questions about unethical and illegal actions that shaved thousands of dollars off the annual property tax bill on Mayor David’s downtown property.
When Democratic Councilman Dan Livingston raised the subject of Mayor David’s sweetheart assessment deals toward the end of the April 15 work session meeting (see here, the conversation starts at 42min 35sec and finishes at 48min 15sec), Republican Councilman John Matzo commendably suggested that Scott Snyder come down and answer questions on the record. Republican Giovanni Scaringi agreed that “the next proper step would be to follow-up with the Assessor.”
Eventually, Council President Tom Scanlon, another Republican, agreed with his colleagues and directed the City Clerk to invite the Assessor down to the next workgroup meeting.
Unfortunately, things haven’t gone as planned.
Despite the unanimous and bipartisan request, the City Assessor is refusing to meet with City Council. President Council Tom Scanlon informed all Council members of the Assessor’s refusal at the May 20th work session meeting, and then seemed to shrug his shoulders.
The snub by the City Assessor is unprecedented, according to former City Council President Teri Rennia. In a recent Facebook post, Rennia wrote, “In 10 years that I served, I do not recall a department head ever refusing to attend a work session to answer questions. Ever.”
While the Assessor’s decision to refuse the invite is troubling and suspect, President Scanlon’s limp concession is even more troubling.
The Council is an independent body that exercises broad oversight over the administration, and the Council President has sweeping powers under the City Charter to fulfill that role.
President Scanlon needs to exhibit the leadership expected of an independent Council President, and demand the Assessor–and possibly Mayor David himself–appear before the Council to answer questions about the Assessor’s questionable decisions to (1) personally reduce the assessment on Mayor David’s downtown property by 27% in 2018, and (2) approve an illegal STAR exemption application filed by Mayor David in 2014.
The Assessor–just like other Department heads–have an obligation to respond to City Council requests, and Mayor David ought to lend his influence to make sure all parties respect the Council’s independence–and in this case, its bipartisan request.
If the Assessor and Mayor David have nothing to hide, then they should welcome the bipartisan invite, and explain themselves publicly, on the record. Their refusal to answer Council’s questions speaks volumes.
Reminds me of a favorite quote of our belated State Senator: “Actions speak louder than words.”
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DO YOU THINK PRESIDENT SCANLON SHOULD HOLD THE ASSESSOR ACCOUNTABLE, AND DEMAND HE APPEAR BEFORE THE COUNCIL, AS REQUESTED BY BOTH DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS?
If so, please reach out to President Tom Scanlon and encourage him to uphold this bipartisan request and demand that the Assessor appear before the Council to answer questions about Mayor David’s property at 45 Court Street:
Call: (607) 772-7234
*A note on the local media blackout: Big kudos to the BU Pipe Dream staff for upstaging the Press and Sun Bulletin and covering this story with care and professionalism.
How I Found Out Mayor David Secretly Cut His Property Tax Bill by 27% (February 5, 2019)