Public official faces series of new allegations - WSMV Channel 4

Public official faces series of new allegations

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The scrutiny is intensifying over an elected official at the center of a Channel 4 I-Team investigation.

Earlier this month, the I-Team first reported about sexual harassment allegations against Rutherford County Property Assessor Bill Boner.

Now, more people are coming forward with new allegations, including intimidation of taxpayers and tax breaks for friends and family.

There are 400 current property disputes in Rutherford County, and there are people who feel they have been bullied, treated unfairly and, in some cases, downright threatened.

One of those people is Paul Corley. He has been raising cattle in Rockvale for 30 years and loves his work.

His home has been unchanged for 30 years, so he said he was shocked when he was assessed for having a new chimney, a new basement and a new carport.

The problem is Corley said all of those features have been at his home for all 30 years.

"I said, 'This is crazy. Why?'" Corley said.

So, he disputed his assessment and took it to the county appeals board.

As the hearing began, Boner walked in and sat next to him.

"And I started speaking, then he got even louder. He said, 'Mr. Corley, do you really want to keep your Greenbelt?' And then it hit me. I said, 'Uh oh, if I don't shut my mouth, I'm going to lose my Greenbelt,'" Corley said.

Greenbelt properties are those designated to be dedicated to farm, forestry or open space uses. The status means big tax breaks for farmers, and the idea is to keep taxes low in order to keep family farms intact, like Corley's cattle farm.

Although Corley said he can prove he's a legal farmer, he still feels like he knows a threat when he hears one.

"I did feel intimidated," Corley said. "If I lose my Greenbelt, that would double my taxes. We need to get rid of that man. I said, 'He needs to be gone.'"

Boner has taken 627 properties off Greenbelt status during his term as property assessor.

David Colin is president of the Spring Lake Homeowners Association. Dozens of new homes were interrupted by a large group of TVA power lines and TVA and city easements.

The homeowners spend $16,000 a year keeping the area maintained even though it is of no use to the homeowners. Not only that, but that county has assessed the worthless property at $60,000.

The homeowners must pay the property tax on the unusable land as if they were real lots.

"Who would buy this? I couldn't give this away," Colin said.

When Colin finally met with Boner, he said it was like talking to a wall. He said Boner basically told him it wasn't his problem.

Tony Pagel's home and land was originally assessed at $117,000. Then came reassessment time, and for no apparent reason, his property dropped to $57,000.

Pagel felt guilty and called the assessor's office.

"Basically, I was told, 'We made our decision, live with it.' Which was a little easy to live with when I was paying half my tax rate. But I think everybody needs to pay their fair share," Pagel said.

Time passed, and then came another reassessment.

"They came and quadrupled my rate to $200,000. Of course, when I approached them about that, they gave the same answer, 'Live with it,'" Pagel said.

If it sounds familiar, remember BFI recently won a case over a landfill with the property assessor.

The landfill's assessment jumped from $8 million to $31 million, and the assessor wouldn't budge.

In ruling for BFI, the judge was harsh, writing: "Given the fact the assessor's office obviously lacks the necessary expertise to accurately value subject property, the administrative judge finds the assessor's refusal to compromise perplexing."

The judge goes on to say this could have been easily settled, but the assessor turned it into an "all or nothing" proposition.

"The more you look at it, the more it seems to be the rule instead of the exception. It kind of makes you glad it's an election year," Pagel said.

The Channel 4 I-Team went to visit Boner Tuesday to talk about this case, but he walked down the building's back staircase, got in his car and left.

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