Embattled Mono Assessor Comes to Mammoth

With recall petitions circulating, Mono County Assessor Jim Lovett appeared at the Mammoth Town Council Meeting Wednesday night. The assessor is in charge of figuring out how much property is worth so that the county knows how much to charge in taxes. Lovett was officially in Mammoth to discuss the assessment of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area after the sale to Starwood, but the meeting appeared to be a referendum on the Assessor himself.

Mono Supervisor Hap Hazard explained his view of the situation to the Mammoth Council. Hazard said that the assessor salary and benefits add up to $134,000 a year and yet Lovetet reportedly works as little as six hours a week. Hazard explained that Lovett had done excellent work when he was hired as the assistant assessor, but that as soon as Lovett was elected to be the Assessor in January of 2007, the Board started to hear reports of less and less time at work and inappropriate behavior.
Assessor Lovett told the council that the work of the Assessors Office is being done. He said that his staff, including Assistant Assessor Bob Musil, can handle the work. Lovett also said that if the assistant assessor position were eliminated, he would be compelled to be in the office more.

One of the issues all along has been the assessors drinking habits. In a past public meeting, Supervisor Bill Reid explained that he and Supervisor Byng Hunt had talked Lovett into going to rehab for drinking.

Wednesday night, Lovett told the council that while he does drink beer in the evening, and he will have a beer when he gets to his hotel, he has never had a moving violation or DUI and that you’ll never see me intoxicated.

Before the meeting started, we asked Assessor Lovett about his work habits. He said that “I don’t need to be there all the time. I’m an elected official, and as long
as the office is operating efficiently and effectively and as long as I’m doing my
state constitution mandates I can set any schedule I want to.”

As for the drinking, Lovett said that “I went to rehab, and yes I still do drink in the evening, but I did learn enough about self control that I dont drink in the daytime. To me its not a problem. You can talk to people in Bridgeport and they’ll tell you theyve never seen me intoxicated.”

Lovett said that the assessment of the Mammoth Mountain sale would be done by August of 2008, and possibly sooner. How much work he will do himself, Lovett didn’t say. He did say that of the 40 parcels of land that changed hands with the sale of the mountain, 35 have been done for sometime. That the county would lose tax money, is a misconception, he said. The tax money may be delayed, but the county wont lose tax dollars, according to Lovett.

The council members had little to say after the presentations. Kirk Stapp said that he felt an office needs leadership, and that he was concerned about the lack of a working relationship between the Supervisors and the Assessors office. In response to passing the job off onto staff, Wendy Sugimura said that an elected official has a larger burden then an employee.

As an elected official, this Assessor situation will come down to the voters. Right now there are petitions circulating to recall the assessor. If one quarter of registered voters sign the petition, then the recall goes to the ballot. The citizens circulating the recall petition have until the 26th of December to turn in the required 1630 signatures.

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