CHARLESTON -- It was a bit calmer atmosphere than last month but the Coles County Board still continued to hear criticism Tuesday about how the county's reassessing its commercial and industrial property.
The board's August meeting featured several heated moments with opposition members and board members frequently interrupting one another.
But on Tuesday, the only actual terse moment took place when board Chairman Stan Metzger stopped James DiNaso of the Concerned Taxpayers of Coles County from speaking after his three-minute time limit was up.
"So much for the First Amendment," DiNaso then said as he left the speaker's podium.
The Concerned Taxpayers' questions, criticism and other comments about the reassessment have become a monthly feature of the county board's meetings.
The questions for the board started in December when business owners in Mattoon Township, the first area where property was reassessed, showed up to ask about their properties' new values.
That was shortly after the county started the project to reassess the business property, which hadn't received new values for taxing purposes since 2001.
The opposition has since evolved into a more organized effort that included the filing of a federal lawsuit against the county over the reassessment issue.
On Tuesday, DiNaso again criticized the board for the hiring of independent appraiser Bob Becker to conduct the reassessment.
He repeated the group's contention that state law requires an employee of the county Supervisor of Assessment's Office, not a hired contractor, to do such work.
DiNaso said there have been contradictory statements by county officials about whether Becker was a employee of the assessment office. If that's the case, the office should have hired him, not the board, he said.
"It's clear there's no way he was ever hired," DiNaso said, saying he'd seen county records to support his contentions. "The evidence shows otherwise."
The board didn't respond to DiNaso's comments, or those from other Concerned Taxpayers members.
That included when group member Robb Perry questioned some of the new property values county board mentioned during earlier meetings.
Perry said one Mattoon property owner recently got financial help from the city for roof repairs and the value of the property cited for that project didn't match that of its new assessment.
"I contend you have fake numbers," he said.
Perry also claimed that records from a 2015 meeting of the board's Offices and Rules Committee about the project showed the method used mirrored that suggested by Charleston's city comptroller. He argued that went "above and beyond" the duty of the city official.
Concerned Taxpayers member Rex Dukeman said the group had difficulties obtaining information on the next phase of the reassessment from the county assessment office.
The members were referred in turn to Becker and then back to the assessment office, Dukeman said.
"Is that how you would expect to be responded to?" he said.