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Campaigns for Assessor Join Ranks of the Nasty

Counties are seeing some vicious races for the traditionally low-key position, and experts aren't sure why.

May 26, 2006|Ashley Powers | Times Staff Writer

In Yolo County, a contender asked the state Board of Equalization, which regulates assessments, to investigate his opponent and the retiring assessor for allegedly undervaluing their homes and another's. The board rejected the allegations and chided the candidate for slipping the press confidential tax documents.

And in San Bernardino County, the race has been conducted with all the decorum of a spitball fight.

Donald E. Williamson, the longtime assessor, had sued his opponents in 1998 and in 2002. This season is even sudsier, with Williamson asking the district attorney to prosecute his opponent, Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Postmus, for allegedly using race and sex in determining staff cuts and trying to bribe the assessor into endorsing him, which Postmus denies.

Williamson also unsuccessfully challenged Postmus' campaign logo in court.

Postmus then sent out campaign mailers that detail a sexual harassment claim the county settled for Williamson, complete with copies of checks to several women it paid. Postmus did not respond to requests for comment.

"I have not slung mud," Williamson protested this week. "I'm not the one who caused this showdown."

Just weeks before the election, Williamson proposed rolling back taxes for about 70,000 properties, saying it was permitted under a state law that allows tax relief in a declining housing market.

Top county administrators noted that no other county had successfully interpreted the law in the same manner and fretted about a potential $20-million loss in revenue. To keep the assessor's office from changing the appraisals, county administrators blocked its computers from doing that task.

Appalled, the assessor stormed into the next Board of Supervisors meeting, only to watch Bob Blough, who heads a union that endorsed the supervisor grouse: "This is a circus stunt."

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