Editor's note: The following letter was submitted to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The author requested that it be submitted as a letter to the editor as well.
My sister and I, as trustees of our family ranch, have learned through the media that Napa County District Attorney Allison Haley has referred to your office an order filed by Napa County Grand Jury Foreperson Charles Dell’Ario on March 8. The order alleges that there are unpaid property taxes due on Napa County Assessor Parcel 045-350-004 because of mistaken underassessment of a radio repeater site income stream.
My sister and I were never notified of the order or the alleged unpaid property taxes until reading the media coverage.
In our capacity as trustees, we wish to resolve this issue quickly and fairly. To that end, we look forward to cooperating with your office as you consider what action you will take in response to the referral of the Grand Jury order.
My parents purchased the ranch in 1951, and for more than six decades we have had an excellent relationship with the staff of the Napa County Assessor Division. We have promptly responded to requests for data and have submitted forms as required. Property taxes have always been paid on time and are current on the seven parcels owned by our family in Napa and Solano Counties.
We want to clarify that I, in my official capacity as Napa County assessor, have no involvement in the assessment of the family parcels. Napa County has adopted an employee-owned property procedure in conformity with state law which prohibits any employee of the Assessor Division from participating in the valuation of his or her own property.
In conformity with this policy, appropriate staff assess the value of our family parcels, and these values are then reviewed by the chief appraiser before being enrolled.
In order to resolve this issue to the Grand Jury’s and the public’s satisfaction, my sister and I respectfully suggest that the Attorney General refer this matter to the California Board of Equalization for review and proposed action. BOE staff already review property owned by elected county assessors in each of California’s 58 counties as part of the BOE assessment survey program.
During the most recent Napa County survey in November and December 2011, the BOE survey team visited this same parcel to confirm the accuracy of a new construction assessment.
We suggest that your office ask the BOE to review promptly the radio repeater site income stream calculations which are alleged to be incorrect; confirm if any corrections are to be made and determine the number of years of escape assessments, if any. We suggest that the results of the BOE review be supplied to your office for transmission directly to the Napa County Auditor Controller for final enrollment.
We look forward to fully cooperating with your office in the resolution of this issue.
John Tuteur, Co-trustee and on behalf of my sister, Mary Holman Tuteur, Co-trustee
Tuteur Family Irrevocable Trust