Lawsuit filed against Jefferson County Appraisal District

Published 4:08 pm Friday, August 27, 2021

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The law firm of Brent Coon and & Associates filed the first of what will likely be a string of hotly contested and politicized lawsuits against the Jefferson County Appraisal District today over the commercial property taxes assessed by the Appraisal District for 2021. The firm is representing the interests of BIDCO, the owner of several commercial properties in Jefferson County.

Brent Coon, the founder of Brent Coon and Associates Law Firm and the principal shareholder in the plaintiff property management company, BIDCO, claims that the appraisal district utilized a new and fraudulent scheme to assess taxable values of commercial properties throughout Jefferson County that in some cases resulted in property valuations going up over 1000% in a single year.  The lawsuit maintains that the appraisal district made the assessments for the first time this year by creating a new “formula” that was not based on historical methods of what the properties similarly situated had sold for in recent years but on a fictional “projection” of what the properties generated in rental revenue.  It further maintains that the reason the JCAD altered the methodology in an attempt to justify the new rate structure was to “make up for” the billions of dollars that the JCAD as reduced the valuations on many of the petrochemical and industrial property owners throughout the County.

“This entire new platform of creating taxable value by estimated rental income is a fraud and a fiction.  The appraisal district utilized this new methodology without ANY background information on what the properties rented for or whether they were even rented at all. Some of the buildings assessed in this manner don’t have any tenants, and others are only partially occupied and at subsidized rates due to the chronic supply and demand issues that have hampered development in Jefferson County for decades,” says Coon.

“Our firm filed the first-class action against this appraisal district several years ago at the behest of Councilman Mike Getz, who had advocated for more transparency with the appraisal process.  We found a broad cross section of suspicious appraisal processes even then, which including the exclusion of properties in the formulas that had sold for less than average per foot values of others, which in essence artificially pushed the valuations of other properties in the same area to a price point higher than true market conditions.”

“We have been comparing notes with other commercial property owners in this appraisal cycle and have been able to clearly establish a widespread pattern of fraudulent calculation methods that have taken buildings historically assessed at one value and now artificially inflated it to valuations many times higher than just last year.  Many examples of properties that were assessed at say $1.5 Million last year and over $8 Million this year. One of our properties which has consistently been appraised at below $1 Million, including last year, suddenly jumped to $2.5 Million this year, a 300 percent increase in one year.  This was, in spite of the fact that the only comparable sales for the area in recent years indicated that the valuations should have gone DOWN, and certainly not up triple what it was the year before. That would be like your house appraising at $150,000 last year and then $500,000 by the appraisal district this year, or by some other properties they have gouged, a Million dollars.”

“Not only is the new calculation method a fraud and a fiction, it is clearly UNCONSTITUTIONAL. The law expressly prohibits a taxing authority from utilizing two different methodologies for the same properties in the same area to pick the one they can extract the highest valuation for, regardless of how much fraud they devise to come up with the number.   We have been working behind the scenes with the owners of a number of other commercial properties since these new evaluations hit the mailboxes and know for a fact that our lawsuit is the first of a wave that will be hitting the local courthouse soon. We also know that the appraisal district has been scrambling to try and cover this up by going back to all those who are likely to bring suit and negotiate deals to avoid the negative exposure.   The cat’s already out of the bag, so what the appraisal district does now to try and sweep it under the rug is going to be too late. We will be entitled to know what they did, when they did it, why they did it, and who else knew about it.  We find it disingenuous to believe that the appraisal district devised this scheme without the implicit or express knowledge of others who would benefit from it, which includes the school districts, the drainage districts and other stakeholders.”

“The appraisal district came back to us at the very last minute and tried to get us to take a much better offer on a reduced valuation if we would drop pursuit of this lawsuit. That isn’t going to happen now if they drop the valuation to zero. We are going to get to the bottom of this fraudulent scheme and expose it for what it is and find out who all was involved in that decision making process.  The citizens and business owners of Jefferson County deserve to have transparency and honesty in all governmental offices, and we are going to shine a light where we think there are systemic patterns of corruption, incompetency, cronyism, and defiance of legal mandates.”