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CHARLESTON -- Additional pay for the person conducting a Coles County property reassessment shouldn't have happened because he shouldn't have been hired in the first place.

That's the position of the Concerned Taxpayers of Coles County, which the group issued in response to a decision on the legality of the additional payments to appraiser Bob Becker.

County payroll records showed and officials confirmed that Becker was paid $100 per hour for work on assessment appeals at the county and state level.

That was in addition to the $115,000 fee he's receiving over four years to conduct the reassessment project, which is now about at its half-way point.

Last week, State's Attorney Brian Bower said research he conducted indicated the additional payments weren't appropriate because they didn't get specific authorization from the Coles County Board.

"It is clear the county board and county employees continue to manipulate and distort the facts and disguise their true intentions," the Concerned Taxpayers group said in its statement.

It also said there is "evidence of wrongdoing and a refusal by the county board to follow the Illinois statutes regarding the countywide reassessment."

In addition, Concerned Taxpayers member James DiNaso said Monday that the group also believes the payments were "contrary to what is allowed under the statute."

He also said the group made the Coles County Board "aware of the fact that Mr. Becker did not have the legal authority in that capacity several months ago."

When contacted for comment, Becker mirrored what county board Chairman Stan Metzger said earlier about allowing the additional pay.

Namely, Metzger said, the funds were in the Supervisor of Assessment's Office's budget so the thinking was the appropriation didn't need additional approval.

"I don't think it's the county board's decision to authorize it or not authorize it," Becker said. He declined to make additional comments on Bower's conclusion.

Complaints and criticism arose after the county decided in 2015 to reassess all commercial and industrial property because that classification hadn't received new values since a countywide reassessment in 2001.

One of the Concerned Taxpayers group's contentions is that it was illegal to hire Becker with a status of an independent contractor.

Assessments are the duty of the county Supervisor of Assessment's Office and state law allows an outside contractor only at the township assessment level, according to the group.

"Mr. Becker also did not have the statutory authority to perform the duties of the supervisor of assessments," DiNaso said.

The additional payments were reflected in county payroll records that showed the difference once Becker's status changed to that of a county employee.

According to State's Attorney Brian Bower, that was done because Supervisor of Assessments Karen Biddle indicated she considers Becker to be a county employee. Making the pay change was "more consistent with operations," he said.

Bower said his position on Becker's hiring remains the same. He said he believes it was legal but, as the Concerned Taxpayers have filed lawsuits against the county, that determination will ultimately be up to the courts.

Bower also said he's still researching what, if anything, should be done about the payments Becker received for the appeals work.

The "first step" was to stop what he found to be inappropriate payments, he said.

Bower said he decided to make public the memo to the county board in which he outlined his decision about the payments.

However, he said whether his future decisions will be made public will be based on the need to "balance" his attorney-client privilege with the county board with other factors.

According to the county payroll records, Becker received just more than $8,600 for the appeals work. All of that was paid earlier this year.

The work took place in 2016 and 2017 but Becker didn't request the additional compensation until this year, both he and Biddle said.

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Contact Dave Fopay at 217-238-6858. Follow him on Twitter: @FopayDave.


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