County Attempts Cover Up On Questionable Land Deal

Ada County officials are squirming over the recent purchase of land without an appraisal mandated by Idaho law.

The GUARDIAN has confirmed that neither elected Assessor Bob McQuade nor his chief deputy, Tim Tallman, were consulted about the so-called appraisal and no one with a commercial appraisal license ever supervised the appraisal as claimed in an Ada County press release.

Ada County Commishes issued a press release late Friday attempting to spin a case for their unscheduled and hasty purchase of the 250 acre Red Hawk subdivision at a sheriff’s sale May 8. The cover up is getting worse than the crime. The GUARDIAN stands by the PREVIOUS POST.

The GUARDIAN previously requested a copy of any appraisal–which is mandated by Idaho Code prior to acquiring real estate. We were provided an informal e-mail from a member of the Ada Assessor’s staff who is NOT a licensed appraiser.

After the GUARDIAN posted that fact and opined the entire purchase was outside the law, Ada County issued a press release claiming the employee’s supervisor was a licensed commercial appraiser and that made it OK for the third level unlicensed tax appraiser to issue what the county says qualifies as a commercial appraisal–despite his lack of a proper license to do so.

Turns out even Tallman, the supposed supervisor at the Ada Assessor’s office is not licensed to appraise more than a four-plex structure and his state license does not extend to massive land deals such as the 250 acre purchase the county made.

We suspect the staffer was merely offering a cursory answer to a question about the land value when said the land in question was “worth $1,000 to $5,000 per acre.” About as safe as saying, “my house is worth between a hundred thousand and half a million.”

Given the county argument, anyone supervised by a licensed attorney could practice law. Or those working for a licensed electrician could do electrical wiring and installation. Great economic idea–pay for a single license and claim authority for anyone working for the licensed expert.

The third level staffer was approached directly by a county attorney who was advising the commishes and eventually did the actual bidding on the 250 acres at the sheriff’s sale. She scared off a private party and got it for $240,000.

No one argues about the price, but the county spinners are saying the county lien for legal fees stemming from a court judgement would not have been paid if a private party acquired the land at auction. The county SPENT $240,000 and did not “protect the taxpayers” in any fashion. They gave up more in delinquent taxes than the judgement they held for legal fees.

They claim the land could go into some sort of reserve for “trading purposes.” The main reason local governments trade land is to avoid declaring it surplus and selling at public auction. They also mentioned “possible open space,” which flies in the face of the fact it was the Ada County Commission that approved the Red Hawk subdivision in the first place!

Finally, in their efforts to toss about stinky “red herring,” Ada’s press release makes the outrageous claim, “Additionally, Idaho Code 31-806 indicates an appraisal is not required in instances where land is purchased for the purposes of recreation and open space preservation.”

In fact, 31-806 makes no mention of any exemption from an appraisal to acquire park land. Further, Idaho Code 31-807 requires an appraisal prior to acquisition of ANY property and also makes no exceptions for park or open space. They can’t even argue the statute is unclear or in conflict. Practically inviting a lawsuit, Commish Ullman said, “We obtain our legal advice from the elected Ada County Prosecutor and his attorneys. When there is a disagreement over the interpretation of applicable law, the court system is always an available resource.”

The GUARDIAN “court of public opinion” rules the county acted outside the law!

Click to view press release text…

County Land Purchase

(Boise, ID) – Earlier this month, Ada County purchased approximately 250 acres of property in the Dry Creek Valley in the Boise foothills, more commonly referred to as “Red Hawk Estates.” Ada County bought the property at a public foreclosure auction and paid $240,000 for it, significantly less than the property’s fair market value.

The Red Hawk Estates developer had unsuccessfully sued Ada County when the County denied a second request for a time extension to develop the land. The Idaho Supreme Court deemed his lawsuit frivolous, and ordered the developer to pay the county’s legal fees. After not receiving payment, Ada County placed a lien against this property for the money owed. The property eventually ended up in foreclosure with more than $1.1 million owed to the bank.

When the property went to auction, the only way the County could protect its financial interest, was to purchase it. The County would not have received the money owed if the property was sold to a private bidder, because the bank debt would have been paid from the proceeds first. There was additional incentive to purchase the property given the possibility the County could swap the land for other land adjacent to the landfill, or leave it as open space for recreational purposes. The property purchase provides the opportunity to connect the Ridge to Rivers trails in Hidden Springs to those proposed as part of the Avimor Planned Community, a goal that is supported by the County.

The suggestion that the County violated the legal requirement of Idaho Code 31-807 to obtain an appraisal prior to the purchase is not true. Commissioners did consult with the Ada County Assessor’s Office. All of the Assessor’s employees work under the supervision of a licensed Idaho appraiser. The Assessor’s Office reported that the land is estimated to be worth between $1000 and $5000 per acre.

Additionally, Idaho Code 31-806 indicates an appraisal is not required in instances where land is purchased for the purposes of recreation and open space preservation. “We obtain our legal advice from the elected Ada County Prosecutor and his attorneys. When there is a disagreement over the interpretation of applicable law, the court system is always an available resource,” said Ada County Commissioner Sharon Ullman.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Just elected officails and taxpayer funded attorney who all believe they are above the law. When is the Guardian going to find out who requested county to purchase, pay back to whom, and just who notified county this was a great investment opportunity.
    There is no ethics or honesty in government.

  2. That press release sounds more like a legal brief than a press release.

  3. Even when you get legal advice elsewhere, you are still responsible for your actions (Boise County), that is why they call it practicing law. It is nice that Sharon is trying to shift the blame to the county attorney but it won’t stick. When you have last-minute secretive meetings, make quick rulings and refuse to defend the decision in open forum discussions you have acknowledged your guilt in my opinion, that is the guilt of poor planning and not really knowing or caring about the rules. Perhaps Sharon and/or the others felt like Thomas Jefferson negotiating the Louisiana Purchase to expand the government territory, even if not legally empowered to make such deals.

    Adding to the problem is the poor justification for the purchase that to protect county taxes due, the county needed to buy the land. Is this a new ADA County policy, that they will bid at auction for any property for which county taxes are owed? If so county is going to be very busy. How did the county purchase of the land result in the collection of that tax? Seems the county commish press release is doubling down when maybe they should fold.

    As an aside, it seems to me the land purchase was a good financial deal and a smart busines move by Sharon and Co, but that is not the issue, the issue is are our elected officials folowing the law, are they lying about whether or not the property was appraised correctly, and are they trying to cover up what in the aftermath looks like it might be a problem?

    I often wondered why Sharon did not participate in the public debate on the Dynamis deal, I am now of the opinion it may have been on the advice of her attorney to not make public statements about what could become matter for the courts.

    Thanks BG for covering this story, not sure why other local media are content to accept the carefully crafted press releases from Ada county as all there is to the story.

  4. Is your house really worth a half million dollars? Sell it to the county!

  5. What’s problematic to me, beyond what BG has reported, is that the county was apparently partly responsible for this property going into foreclosure by denying an extension, even though the court agreed with the county. Now, the county turns around and buys that same property. Will this become a habit?

    Personally, I don’t buy the after-the-fact spin.

  6. Outside Observer
    May 21, 2012, 12:14 pm

    This blog is such an insignificant, but amusing, little blip on the local internet radar! It reads like a script from the original soap opera “As the Stomach Turns” or perhaps the play “Much Ado about Nothing”. I keep reading it because I’m such a big fan of fictionally based news like in the National Enquirer.

    This particular post is especially hysterical because the deal is done and not one of you namby pamby whiners can do anything about it. What are you going to do? Vote the commissioners out of office? Oops, too late!

    So I guess the 20 or 25 people who read this crap will just have to do what they do best, COMPLAIN, WHINE and COMPLAIN! Get a life already.

    Of course that’s just MY opinion, I could be wrong .

  7. “When there is a disagreement over the interpretation of applicable law, the court system is always an available resource,” said Ada County Commissioner Sharon Ullman.”

    In other words.. Sue me if you don’t like it! Just the right attitude for a public official. It’s time for a County Manager and a part-time elected Board. (I know, but Constitutions can be amended)

  8. Mr. Guardian, isn’t it wonderful that “Outside Observer” would shower a bit of attention on your pitiful little endeavor?!! Most sophisticates of his/her stature wouldn’t even take the time!

    Of course, after some introspection, I’ll probably have to start getting my news from more legitimate sources – Dee and Mark come immediately to mind. Which will leave you with only 19 or 24 people who read this crap and whine and complain. C’est la vie.

  9. OutsideO- It is pretty hard to catch this land purchase ahead of time when the county kept it secret.

    You must be new. This blog(David Frazier) has a pretty good record of holding local government accountable. Look up the Frazier decision.

  10. Obviously “Outside Observer” doesn’t know too much about how government of the people works. When you stand by in silence you have no reason to comment when you don’t like the result.

  11. @ Outside Observer– your trap to make you the issue and not the story is just too tempting…..

    I too would like to complain about complainers, doing so somehow makes me not a complainer, but elevates me above others.

    On a more educated note, does anyone want to discuss with Outside Observer and I the latest Jersey Shore episode? I hear Snookie is pregnant, she is going to be a great mother, just like Britney!!!!

  12. Outside Observer
    May 21, 2012, 3:47 pm

    Thank you enrico49, Clancy, bikeboy and Hadenough for participating in my little experiment. You have been very helpful. I was curious how a semi-comical/cynical approach to BG would be received by its disciples. You didn’t disappoint!

    In future posts I will stick to the issue but only if I can help educate, enlighten, or debunk. Otherwise I’ll just continue to read this blog daily and try not to laugh too hard. I hope everyone has a great holiday weekend!

  13. Looking at BOOC Agenda, May 8th, 9:00 AM; **PROPOSED AMENDED**. Public Hearing CLOSED, Red Hawks Estates, Executive Session; approved to bid at Sheriff Sale **ADDED**. From this observer, Hadenough has it wrong. There was no public notice (few mintues maybe) or public hearings. Approved 9:36 AM, shiriff bid at 10:00.

    Hadenough must like taxpayer money being spent without any notice to the taxpayer. This poster has lost sight of the process to acquire land, a legal appraisal completed by a state licensed appraiser. Poor tax assessor isn’t licensed to complete appraisal for this transaction.

    Hadenough doesn’t know what open government means.

  14. Let the sun shine in on this deal. The real problem is there are no criminal sanctions when elected officials misbehave in this fashion. They can just stand back and say OOps sorry about that and it goes away.

    At the very least it appears they pushed the guy over the edge by not granting an extension and then swooped in for the kill with taxpayer bucks.

  15. Ada County added Dynamis to tomorrow’s, May 22, 2012, Commissioner’s agenda at 9 a.m.:

    – Agreements
    a. Agreement No. 9695 – Amended and Restated Franchise Agreement Between Ada County and Dynamis Energy, LLC, Regarding Waste to Energy at the Ada County Landfill.

    Now what? More money? Or are we getting the $2 million back?

  16. Outside Observer
    May 21, 2012, 7:34 pm

    For faster service in Ada County pleae dial 1-800-555- WHAAAAAAAAAA!

  17. Patti, this is what Hadenough describes as open governmant. Mostly likely completed in executive session. Bottom line, government collects too much in taxes. Take the money away, then it is not available to give away or speculate on property.

  18. I got caught feeding the troll.

  19. chicago sam
    May 21, 2012, 8:24 pm

    Maybe the county is going to guarantee the financing–At the very least origional contract should be null and void because time limits were not met on the origional Dynamis contract

  20. Brian Vermillion
    May 21, 2012, 8:56 pm

    I love the power of information and the media. This story would have never seen the light of day but for the efforts of the Boise Guardian.

  21. ITD should buy every vehicle that does not renew license registration to protect their taxes due, and the city should buy every expired Twinkie, Ding Dong and Fruit Pie from gas stations to ensure collection of sales tax. The logic of Ada County has many other useful applications.

  22. current employee
    May 21, 2012, 10:11 pm

    Am I the only one who knows who outside observer is. Sure sounds like our upcoming ex-commissioner telling the public she can do whatever she pleases and spend taxpayers money as she likes. As to laughing at BG, she use to be the biggest fan on here blogging daily using her own name and trashing others. It is no longer a legitimate site for her when she is being trashed.

  23. Outside Observer
    May 21, 2012, 11:48 pm

    dear current employee, aren’t you done lambasting you old boss?I am not her. you may verify this by sending your email address to [email protected]. I will then respond to your private email with further contact information so we can discuss this in person. by the way, Enjoy the rest of your week week D.

  24. And am I the only one that thinks “current employee” sounds like our soon to be unemployed misdemeanor probation director?

  25. I can speak from personal experience, that when a person is on the side of the Government, then suddenly forced to be on the side of the people, the insight and the resentment held for the debacle of an organisation that is the government produces a desire to “pull the veil back” and show the world just how F*#$ed up the system is.
    If a former Commish chooses to keep their allegiance with the broken system, and bash those who speak for freedom and independence, then they are to be pitied, for that person has been so thoroughly manipulated and corrupted that they can not see what evil deeds this government commits, and are themselves an evil person.

  26. My name is Dee Oldham and as many people know, I used to work for the Ada County Commissioners. I am receiving phone calls questioning if I am a poster on this site. While I may agree with some of the comments, II am not posting on this blog. Please stop communicating about me being a poster and stop calling me asking me if I am. If I have something to say to a person, I will communicate with that person directly. Thank you very much!

  27. If you do not want to be contacted by the public, do not take public office.

    EDITOR NOTE–She was an unelected staffer and deserves to be left alone as requested.

  28. Dear Dee, you posted on this blog to try to convince people you don’t post on this blog? Do you realize that makes no sense at all? Perhaps this brilliant logic expalins why you don’t have that job anymore.

    And Fraz, people who want to be “left alone” should stay out of heated debates or discussions on websites and blogs that are open to the public. Keep stirring the pot! Nuff Said

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