Now that Christmas is over and the New Year beckons, it’s time for Watchdog.org’s annual parade of malfeasance and miscreants.
The Scariest People of 2015 is a frightening list indeed, filled with bureaucrats and functionaries who, shall we say, do not share an affinity for liberty.
No one can stop them from plying their trade — bad government is as old as government. But we can keep an eye on them, report their misdeeds to the world and once in a while help the good guys win.
Through New Year’s Day, we’ll highlight the most egregious examples of nanny statism, overweening bureaucracy and just plain old bad government from the past 12 months, encompassing local, state and federal officialdom.
Here’s No. 18.
Marlene Bedore is courteous and friendly, and can answer any question you throw at her — whether you understand the answer is another matter altogether.
That was her M.O. as more and more Hitchcock County residents began raising questions about how this assessor in rural Nebraska was setting values on property. They suspected she was lowering values for friends and supporters and hiking them for political foes — lowering and raising property tax bills, depending upon how you rated with Bedore.
Bedore has vigorously denied any wrongdoing throughout months of questions that culminated in a confrontation with the state assessor in August. Squarely in the hot seat at the Hitchcock County Courthouse, Bedore met her match in State Property Tax Administrator Ruth Sorensen.
While Bedore’s circuitous explanations for her actions had confounded county commissioners, constituents and reporters, they did not faze Sorensen, who signaled the roomful of onlookers that she was on to her, saying, “We’re not getting clear answers” and “I know facts that aren’t coming through.”
Despite Sorensen’s systematic takedown of Bedore, some Hitchcock County residents continued to support the assessor — namely, those whose taxes were going down.
“We’re all just a little sick of your mouth,” one of them virtually yelled at the state official.
But Sorensen had the last word, releasing her conclusion that Bedore lowered property values for campaign supporters and associates. She recommended a year’s probation, 14 corrective measures and five educational courses.
Of the properties reviewed by the state Revenue Department, 92 percent of the owners who were associated with Bedore saw a drop in property value. Of the owners who had no association with Bedore, just 6 percent saw a decrease in assessed value.
State officials said those associated with Bedore saw their property value drop an average of about $17,000 per parcel, while those not associated with the assessor saw their property value go up an average of nearly $4,800.
The county board of commissioners approved Sorensen’s recommendations. But Bedore isn’t giving up. She recently sued Sorensen and the county board, alleging she was denied due process because she didn’t get a hearing before the Nebraska State Tax Commissioner.