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Taxpayers Assoc. upset with county, asks for investigation

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The Becker County Taxpayers Association continues to be unhappy with assessment work done in Becker County.

Taxpayer Association President Les Ristinen came before the county board Tuesday with a long litany of complaints -- at least one of which has been investigated through an on-site visit by a state official, and determined to be unfounded.

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He was particularly critical of assessment work done in Wolf Lake Township, brandishing a thick file and alleging that lakeshore property there was not fairly assessed.

He asked commissioners for comments, but Chairman Barry Nelson said the board was not in a position to do so  -- commissioners had not seen any of the information in the file, since none of it had been provided prior to the meeting.

Ristenen agreed to meet with the county administrator later to go over the allegations.

He called on the five county board members to investigate personally -- apparently unaware that an investigation has already been completed by the Wadena County Sheriff's Department.

Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon said in an interview that he does things "by the book" and since there were allegations of official misconduct, he referred the case to Wadena County for routine conflict of interest reasons.

He said the Becker County Attorney's Office has the completed investigation and will forward it to another county attorney's office for consideration of charges.

Ristinen quit making specific complaints about halfway into his allotted 10 minutes on the board agenda, and spent the remainder of his time lecturing the commissioners.

A mere 10 minutes on the agenda is not enough, he said, noting that he will testify before a state legislative panel that has scheduled two hours for the issue at an upcoming hearing.

He called again for the county to quit allowing individual townships to hire their own assessors and switch to a system in which county staff does all the assessing.

It's a pet issue the Taxpayers Association has pushed for years.

Nelson said he wouldn't have a problem with switching to an all-county assessing system, but the board's position is that it will not force townships to switch against their will, in the same way the county does not like being told what to do by the state.

Ristinen asked commissioners to bring in assessors from a county that has the all-county assessing system, like Otter Tail, to reassess lakeshore property in Wolf Lake Township.

The board members promised nothing, perhaps because Ristinen has a habit of making unfounded allegations -- to the extent that the state has taken the unusual step of notifying the Taxpayers Association that it will no longer spend resources on investigating its complaints.

About a half-dozen Taxpayers Association members attended the meeting.

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