CHARLESTON -- Whether the person handling a Coles County reassessment project is a county employee or an independent contractor was the chief question to the Coles County Board Tuesday.

Continuing an ongoing practice of attending the board's meetings to criticize the project, the Concerned Taxpayers of Coles County also challenged the board about addressing the problems the group claims exist.

Member James DiNaso repeated the group's contention that the reassessment isn't being done properly because Bob Becker, the person handling the project, isn't a county Supervisor of Assessments Office employee as required.

He asked why the board approved an agreement with Becker and claimed that made him an independent contractor, not a county employee.

"You know he was not hired," DiNaso said. "You know that's a lie."

Board members declined to respond for the most part. At one point, State's Attorney Brian Bower said the Concerned Taxpayers' lawsuit against the county meant the meeting wasn't the proper venue for a debate.

"That issue is up to a court to decide," Bower said. "There is evidence that it can go in either direction. It's improper for a public body to try litigation."

The lawsuit was filed in federal court and does mention Becker's hiring, though its main contention is that the reassessment unfairly affected Mattoon Township business owners

That argument is based on how the county conducted the reassessment. Mattoon Township was reassessed first and had new property values applied before the rest of the county.

Also Tuesday, Concerned Taxpayers member Robb Perry asked the board if it has worked to address the complaints since they began 11 months ago.

"Have you done anything as a group on the issues we've brought up?" he said.

Member Cory Sanders replied that board members have talked about concerns individually. He then asked why the group members thought the board was being intentionally misleading.

"Why does it benefit anyone on the board to lie?" he said. "It's asinine."

"You should be asking yourself," DiNaso replied. "I don't owe you any answers."

Board member Rick Shook followed by saying he didn't think the claim that the board wasn't concerned about the matter was accurate.

"I told you since day one something was wrong," he said.

Meanwhile, the board postponed votes that had been scheduled for Tuesday's meeting because of the form of the meeting's agenda.

Bower said there should have been a separate agenda for Tuesday's meeting instead of listing it as a "reconvened meeting" from last month.

That move, which the board has done for years, is because the county's budget is supposed to be approved at the September meeting. However, the budget usually isn't ready until closer to the end of the county's fiscal year in November.

Bower said there should be two agendas for next month. One should be for the reconvened meeting with the budget vote and the other should list new items set for votes, he explained.

He noted that Tuesday's items didn't need immediate votes. They were appointments to two drainage districts and renewing the operating agreement for the Dial-A-Ride public transportation program.

Bower's recommendations on the budget followed his discussion about the matter before the meeting with Kirk Allen of the Edgar County Watchdogs organization.


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