County Council withdraws money offered to Washam

Pierce County Assessor/Treasurer Dale Washam continues to spar with county officials over the inspection of new construction. Earlier statements from his office indicated these would stop before a deadline to complete this task in order to focus on inspecting existing properties.

On July 10 he testified on the topic at the Pierce County Council meeting. The council was considering approving an offer to give his office an additional $20,000 to cover staff costs of inspecting new construction, which is needed for such properties to be added to the tax rolls.

Washam said the county needs a new source of revenue to cover the cost of inspecting new construction, perhaps in the form of a new fee.

Washam praised his staff and said they are on target to complete new construction inspections by the deadline, which the state set at Aug. 31.

He said his office has done more inspections than when his predecessor, Ken Madsen, led the department. Washam said he has eight fewer employees and his budget is $1.2 million less than when Madsen was there.

Washam said his office had not asked for the $20,000. “We simply do not want it,” he remarked. He suggested allocating the funds to law enforcement or other county services that need it more. “Give it to them.”

Albert Ugas, his chief deputy, then testified. He said the situation was “a total fabrication” done for political reasons. Councilmember Roger Bush twice interrupted Ugas, claiming his comments were straying from the item on the agenda. The second time Council Chair Joyce MacDonald ruled Bush out of order.

After Ugas finished Bush offered comments. “There is nothing nefarious in the ordinance,” he remarked. However, based on the comments of Washam and Ugas, Bush said he wanted to withdraw the funds and return them to the general fund. He made a motion to do so, which the council passed unanimously.

The day before county prosecutors and state tax collectors sent Washam a message. Prosecutors filed a writ of mandate on July 9 that would compel Washam’s office to continue inspecting new construction. Property values would need to be reported by Aug. 31. That same day the state Department of Revenue ordered Washam to continue the inspections.

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