The final days of his term have dwindled to single digits, but Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam is still arguing.
For the past few days, the outgoing assessor has tried to derail the countys annual foreclosure sale: an auction of properties saddled with three years of unpaid property taxes. The assessors staff members handle the foreclosure auction each year, following rules established under state law.
Washams effort wont succeed, according to Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. The sale, scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. Friday in downtown Puyallup, will move forward as scheduled, with more than 300 properties on the block and Washam cant stop it.
He did not respond to requests for comment sent via e-mail and voice message Thursday. Details of his actions came from Lindquist.
I view this as a last gasp on his way out, a final protest, Lindquist said Thursday. And I dont see any merit here. It is very clear under the law. The sale is ordered by the court, its required by statute and theres no legal basis for Washam to stop this from going forward as scheduled.
Lindquist added the county could hold Washam personally liable for the financial damage to the county if he interferes with the auction.
As a matter of routine and a function of state law, the county holds foreclosure auctions every year. Property owners receive multiple notices about their delinquent taxes, and multiple opportunities to work out payment arrangements as the bills pile up.
If three years pass and all else fails, the county sells the properties as a last resort at an auction: the minimum bid reflects the money owed to the county.
Washam, who has waged a long-running war with county leaders over property tax issues, recently sent letters to every member of the County Council, the prosecutors office and the state attorney general, contending the auction should not take place.
(The mass distribution of the letter, described as a request for a legal opinion, forfeited attorney-client privilege and created a public paper trail, Lindquist noted.)
Washam initially argued that the property values associated with the unpaid tax bills were invalid, because computer models allegedly calculated the values without the backing of legally required physical inspections (the topic, frequently argued, has been Washams signature issue throughout his term).
The countys legal leaders replied that the affected property owners could have appealed their assessments at any point over the last three years. But they didnt.
Washam raised a second argument: he didnt personally sign the certificate of delinquency, an official document associated with the foreclosure process.
That didnt matter much, either. Though Washam didnt sign the certificate, his chief administrative officer, Billie OBrien, did she did the same thing in 2010 and 2011, prior to foreclosure auctions held in those years.
Lindquist said Washam overrated the significance of his personal signature.
Nothing in the statute requires him to sign, Lindquist said. I dont personally sign every charging document that goes out of this office.
Whats more, OBriens recorded signature carries the authority of Washams office. Even if he didnt sign the record himself, his subordinate did a de facto symbol of Washams authority.
OBrien, reached late Thursday, was preparing for the morning sale. She said she was unaware of the running correspondence between Washam and county leaders; Washam never mentioned it to her.
As far as I know, the sales going forward, she said.
Lindquist underlined that point. The assessors staff is responsible for running the foreclosure auction
If (Washam) orders his employees to not proceed forward, we, as the legal representative of the county, will intervene and advise the employees to go forward and offer them legal protection for doing so, he said. We will save him from himself.
Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486 email@example.com