Carbon County Assessor, Commission Respond to Tax Role Concerns


In the beginning of October, the Carbon County Commission addressed the review of a letter that was received in June from the Utah State Tax Commission regarding Carbon County Assessor Gillian Bishop and the assessor’s office.

During the commission meeting that was hosted on Wednesday evening, a response from Assessor Bishop, as well as the commissioner’s response, was entertained. Prior to beginning the response, Commission Chair Casey Hopes laid out ground rules that were given by the Carbon County Attorney.

It was explained that this was the time that Assessor Bishop would be allowed to respond to the letter, which was something that he requested. A reminder was given that while the meeting was a public commission meeting, it is one at which the commission transacts and conducts its business. This means that items that specifically require their attention will be taken care of.

While the meeting was open and public, it was not an open forum and the agenda item was not a public hearing. There was no intention in receiving public comment at that time and no persons would be authorized to speak unless the chairman allowed it.

From there, Bishop stated that he appreciated the opportunity to address the audit letter that was received in June, in which five areas of concern were highlighted. The first area of concern was communication and asking for assistance before the assessment role was closed. The second was spending all time necessary to learn from staff to better understand using tools for proper mass appraisal. The third area was a detailed review and investigation in concern to the 2023 tax year.

The fourth was that Bishop would need to come into compliance by obtaining licensure or becoming designated to assess properties. Finally, the fifth area of concern raised by the state was that Bishop would need to ensure that he, or an employee, received designation to appraise and audit business property.

Bishop addressed these concerns individually, stating that over the last three years, the market value has been increased by close to $1 billion. When increasing values at that magnitude, he said that it is important to take all necessary time to ensure that decisions are fair and equitable. He also stated that PUMA, the program that they utilize for collecting data, is under development.

Bishop believes that PUMA is the best program that is available to assessors, though it is not perfect. He said that errors can occur and currently, there are no data validations between the systems, meaning that once the data is sent there, it is not a confirmation that the updated values have taken place.

From there, Bishop stated that he is requesting clarification regarding the recommendation on the 2023 review and that it will need to be amended to ensure that they have the tools required to do what the state is requesting. He also stated that he thought it strange that after the tax commission came in and made changes to the value in 2023, they would then direct them to make a complete review of 2023, essentially saying that the state is not even confident with the numbers they came up with.

Bishop also stated that at this point, he is now complaint and that the county has contracted as needed. At no point, according to Bishop, has the county been able to do their full appraisal work and it has typically been hired out. Obtaining the license will eliminate outside expense.

Bishop explained that last year, he enrolled in classes, but each was cancelled due to lack of participation and he was directed to classes for this year. He has signed up, enrolled, is taking and passing the classes. He then said that both him and the chief deputy have obtained designation to appraise and audit business properties.

Following addressing the areas of concern, Bishop stated that it was important to note that in the production of fair and equitable tax role, there have been several things that he as the assessor felt should be brought to the public’s attention to create a more transparent environment.

He first said that his office has been repeatedly criticized for meeting with taxpayers and using tools to help them understand how values are set and what a fair and equitable market value could be for their home. Bishop said that he had stated he would fight for the lowest possible value, but it is only applicable when the value is above market value and therefore, too high.

He said he would also fight for the highest possible value if it was set too low. There were many people that he met with this year where he disagreed on the value of their current home, though there were some that he did agree and defend.

The next point that he wished to raise was that not all taxpayers were treated the same. He said that most had been repeatedly sent to his office and were told no other office could assist them. However, he claimed that the American Legion visited the offices that same day and was made tax exempt by the Carbon County Treasurer. He stated that he himself did not support them being tax exempt as they have a piece of real property that they are renting privately.

Bishop then said that he believed it was important to note that the treasurer and clerk/auditor had comprised a list of parcels that they were “unhappy with” and sent it to his office. The list was prepared where vast majorities of properties listed required little to no change and those that did, they moved immediately to correct.

Bishop claimed that the clerk and treasurer have no accountability or statutory authority in making the list and attempting to dictate values that should or should not exist.

At this point in the meeting, the commissioners had a chance to respond. Commissioner Larry Jensen began by stating that Bishop spoke only about a narrow window of time between the beginning of June this year and that day. Commissioner Jensen wished to explain what happened since Bishop took office two years and 10 months prior.

When Bishop first came into office, it was rumored that he had a private appraisal business and that it was not his intention to be at work much. That concern was brought up and for 2.5 years, it was true that Bishop had not attended work much. Commissioner Jensen said this left his staff unattended and citizens that came in and needed his assistance were unable to reach him.

Commissioner Jensen stated that Bishop was talked to four times in a formal setting about that and he informed the commissioners that they were not his boss and that he was going to do what he wanted. That continued, according to Commissioner Jensen, until June of this year. There was another meeting held that prompted the commission to become very concerned.

Within a year and half, Bishop’s entire staff left the county. They had to hire new personnel and Commissioner Jensen said it would be reasonable to think that with new staff, Bishop should have been in the office a lot training and checking their work. When the tax roles were closed in May, he had not been in the office and wanted an extension. Commissioner Jensen explained that red flags began to go up and due to their being deadlines, everything was pushed back.

Some of the concerns included commercial appraisals conducted without a license and some major inconsistencies. When the state was brought in to investigate, they found things to be “unprecedented and something they had not seen before.” Every time they looked into one thing, ten others were found, Jensen said.

Commissioner Jensen then said that in June, Bishop stated he would be in his office 40 hours per week, and that has not occurred. Commissioner Martines then spoke, stating that they try to build a good working culture that is not segregated. He said leaders do not push fault, but want to make things fair and equitable. They have had many meetings with Bishop in which Commissioner Martines stated he did not have a great attitude.

“We have taken the responsibility to solve this, and we will solve it,” stated Commissioner Martines, before Commissioner Hopes said that it was important to understand that at no point did they state that Bishop cannot perform his job, just that he wasn’t.

Commissioner Hopes also stated that Bishop did commercial work without a license this year and that there is no disputing that. He believes that Bishop has the ability, but does not think that he has put time into the job or training his staff. All of his staff were not designated until the state stepped in and that is something that Commissioner Hopes believed was important for the public to know.

With the inconsistencies that have occurred within the assessor’s office, there has been lost value and there will be an imbalance for the taxpayers that will take years to fix. The taxpayers will have an added cost for those that have been hired to correct the problems as well.

“We do have authority, and all we’re trying to do is make sure that the citizens of this county are treated fairly, all of them,” said Commissioner Jensen. “And that has not happened this year.”

Commissioner Jensen concluded the response by stating that they do not have the authority to remove Bishop from office before the meeting was concluded.

scroll to top