Disgruntled Assessor-Treasurer worker resigns

December 17, 2010 

An employee of Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam resigned Tuesday, accusing Washam and his chief deputy, Albert Ugas, of fomenting public controversy that threatens the safety of workers in Washam’s agency.

The employee, Mark Williams, a 20-year veteran of the department, also has an active damage claim against the county, filed Oct. 15. The claim alleges mistreatment by Washam and seeks $750,000 in damages.

Working for Washam while having an active damage claim turned Williams into a pariah at the office, he contends. Williams’ attorney, Joan Mell, said her client had considered resigning for some time, but recent events hastened his decision.

After filing his claim, Williams was shifted from the division where he worked and moved to field appraisal work, Mell said. In the past, Williams had supervised appraisers.

According to Mell, two appraisers trying to conduct physical inspections of properties have been threatened by residents in recent weeks.

“There’s been two incidents within one month where assessors have been confronted by angry property owners who use much of the terminology that Washam and Ugas use on the Internet site,” Mell said.

Washam has accused his predecessor, former Assessor-Treasurer Ken Madsen, of criminal corruption for using statistical models to revalue some properties instead of the physical inspections required by state law.

Washam has used his official county website to underline the claims, and blamed longtime employees for their involvement in those actions.

Though Washam has repeatedly called for a criminal investigation, local and state law enforcement leaders have repeatedly declined to support him, saying taxpayers suffered no harm.

A Dec. 15 letter from Williams to Washam refers the recent threats against appraisers and questions Washam’s perceived lack of concern.

“Just last week we had another incident where a residential property assessor was confronted by an angry homeowner,” Williams wrote.

“He threatened her and called her a liar and a criminal. These are terms you and Mr. Ugas choose to label your own staff in meetings and on your multiple postings on the official department website. …

“I was very upset when I learned that supervisory staff thought nothing should be done about this most recent incident due to your lack of support or interest.”

Washam and Ugas declined to comment on Williams’ allegations.

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