Arizona attorney general says Yavapai County Board of Supervisors exceeded authority
The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors (BOS) exceeded its authority when it removed the cartography and title personnel from under the county assessor to create a separate department, the Arizona Office of the Attorney General stated in its opinion Monday, Dec. 21.
The functions of those personnel, the ruling stated, are necessary for an assessor to perform its statutory duties.
In June, Yavapai County Assessor Pam Pearsall sought clarification from the Attorney General's Office (AG) on a dispute regarding board members' decision to remove two divisions from her department this past May. Reached by telephone Monday evening, BOS Chairman Craig Brown said he expects the board will call a special meeting to discuss the opinion.
"The Attorney General's opinion is just an opinion. It has no standing in law," Brown said, acknowledging that he was unaware of the 13-page opinion released late Monday and hadn't read it yet.
Attorney General Mark Brnovich stated in the document that, by law, the county assessor must perform, be competent to perform, and must have the power and resources to perform his or her duties. Part of those duties requires identification of real property, property owners, full cash value of property, and a complete set of maps.
"Consequently, it is beyond a county board of supervisors' authority to divest a county assessor of those duties," the document states.
On Monday, Brown said it's the board's business to run the county, and running the county means it gets to say who gets what resources and who doesn't. Pearsall can still use the new division's GIS services, "it's just that she's not the supervisor," he said.
The reason the board created the new division seven months ago, Brown said, was to create an efficient department, and due to a number of complaints from other people using GIS who were unable to get their work completed.
"They talked to us and wanted it under somebody more responsive," he said.
That person was Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Manager Kevin Blake, who heads up the new department. Brown states that since moving the GIS services under Blake, there's been a 100-percent increase in productivity, and there have been no complaints.
"So it may be under her (Pearsall's) purview, but if she's not accomplishing the task, are we supposed to sit there and waste taxpayers' money? I don't think so," Brown said.
At the time of the board's decision to split the assessor's department in May, Pearsall was days away from a reorganization of her office, which included eliminating a Title Division supervisor's position filled by Tina Bourdon, wife of Yavapai County Administrator Phil Bourdon. Tina continues to be employed in the new GIS department.
Pearsall, reached by email, stated, "I am reassured that the Attorney General has stood by our constitution and respects the separation of powers. I am hopeful that now the Board of Supervisors will do the right thing by the citizens of Yavapai County."
Follow Sue Tone on Twitter @ToneNotes. Reach her at 928-445-3333 x2043 or 928-642-7867.