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View Diary: BREAKING: Another GOP scandal brings CA 52nd into play (271 comments)

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  •  But who is at fault? (1+ / 0-)
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    I think most voters will think it was a lucky break, unless he used his position or money to influence the assessor.  Wouldn't mosts people like to avoid increased taxes?  I don't know if the fact he is a politician will override that.

    Now, whether or not he should have realized the property was undervalued....I don't know how detailed the tax forms are in CA, but here, we just get something with last year's value, this year's value and the plat/lot number.  There isn't any way to see the square footage unless you actually go to the county assessor -- here, that is on the web, but few people seem to know how to access that data.

    Should he have noticed that the taxes didn't jump?  Maybe...eventually.  But are you sure they didn't?  Without doing a thing to our house, we saw our value go up 25% one year, just from some 'adjustments' made by the county regarding the real estate market. The value for tax purposes is still at least 25% below FMV.

    •  Ok (2+ / 0-)
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      maggiemae, Benjaminwise

      So if Duncan Hunter is in fact an innocent victim in all of this, what possible motivation would the assessor have to confuse a 2,900 sq ft house with a 6,200 sq ft house? The guest house was 2/3rds the size of what the assessor put down. At present, Duncan Hunter won't allow the Union Tribune to see all the notes and other paperwork involved with the calculation of his home's value, so it's not like he even has the appearance of wanting to get that cleared up, he's already in denial mode.

      Everyone knows the Low Rider.

      by Hannibal on Sun Oct 08, 2006 at 04:09:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  How Is It (3+ / 0-)
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        Benjaminwise, fhcec, ca democrat

        that those papers aren't part of the public record; aren't they part and parcel with the assessor's valuation?  Ayone out there got an explanation?  In Florida, tax rolls are open to all.  Does CA have "government in the sunshine" laws like FL?

        They burn our children in their wars and grow rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

        by Limelite on Sun Oct 08, 2006 at 04:15:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Law is (1+ / 0-)
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          That the purchaser has to give permission, otherwise those papers are considered private. Not sure why the law is that way, but that's how it is.

          Everyone knows the Low Rider.

          by Hannibal on Sun Oct 08, 2006 at 04:17:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well, actually, (5+ / 0-)
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            lanshark, Benjaminwise, Limelite, LNK, CJnyc

            tax information is public. Here's what I was able to dig up:

            Primary Owner: HUNTER,DUNCAN & HELYNN
            Mail Address: 0 PO BOX 2233 ALPINE, CA 91903
            Site Address: 9635 VISTA VIEJAS RD, ALPINE, CA 91901
            APN: 402-160-17
            Census Tract: 212.011
            Page Grid Old: 51R-A3
            Page Grid New: 1234-A3
            Legal Description: DOC95790REC72 IN SEQ OF SEQ SEC 16-15-2E

            Property Characteristics
            Bedrooms: 2
            Year Built: 1975
            Bathrooms: 2.5 Garage: Y/4 space
            Zoning: R1 Pool/View: Y/
            Square Feet: 2,946
            Bathrooms: 2.5
            Lot Size: 117,176 sq ft / 2.69 acres
            Number of Units: 1
            Zoning: R1
            Use Code: Single Family Residence

            Sale & Loan Information
            Transfer Date: 10-12-1994
            Transfer Value:
            Cost/Sq Feet: $0.00
            First Loan Amt: $25,000
            Lender: Valle DE Oro

            Loan Type: C

            Interest Rate Type: V
            Assessed & Tax Information
            Assessed Value: $148,151
            Land Value: $118,165
            Tax Amount: $1,293
            Improvement Value: $29,986
            Tax Status: current

            Interestingly, it shows the current assessed valuation as lower than the supposed $175,000 sale price from 1994. So, assuming he actually paid $175,000 for it in 1994 (as the article cited in the diary states), and the assessed value (per Prop 13) were raised 2% every year since, his current assessed valuation (assuming no other changes) should be around $220,000 (that's very rough, off the top of my head).

            Now, it is hardly unheard of for California counties to be slow in reassessing properties after improvements, changes of use, etc.; it varies quite a bit from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and even within the same jurisdiction.

            So, this could be either a simple case of bureaucratic ineptitude (not uncommon) combined with disingenuousness on the part of a property owner ("Oh, gee, I had no idea the assessed value was so low; I'll run right down to the assessor's office and get this straightened out!"), or perhaps a conspiracy. I have no idea.

            It would be worth pulling the county assessor's records on this, just to nail it down. My information is usually pretty good, but far from infallible.

            FWIW, my $.02.

            As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. - Justice William O. Douglas

            by occams hatchet on Sun Oct 08, 2006 at 05:30:41 PM PDT

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            •  Part of that (7+ / 0-)

              Lowered value is because of the Cedar fires, the home was destroyed. Being rebuilt now. As to the information that's not public, this is what I was referring to, from the article:

              Hunter refused to give assessors permission to discuss details about his property with The San Diego Union-Tribune, which has been examining the holdings of public officials since a bribery scandal last year sent former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham to federal prison.

              As well as this:

              The California Revenue and Taxation Code regulates what information can be made public and what should remain confidential between property owners and their county government.
              A home's sale price, assessed value, taxes paid, square footage and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms are all matters of public record.

              Information not open to public inspection includes appraiser notes and other factors used to calculate assessments, letters between homeowners and the county or other paperwork related to assessed values, said Butler, the assistant county assessor.

              “Only the owner of the property can give us the permission to release that information,” he said.

              Hunter said there is no reason to permit a review of his property file. Questions about his initial purchase and the calculation of the property taxes amounted to “an extremely prejudicial inquiry” on the part of the newspaper, he said.

              So there are things that aren't public, that do seem important.

              Everyone knows the Low Rider.

              by Hannibal on Sun Oct 08, 2006 at 05:35:46 PM PDT

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              •  Okay, so the structure was destroyed (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Benjaminwise, Limelite, Hannibal

                in the Cedar Fire? When was that, 2004? It should be a relatively straightforward matter to go back through the assessor's tax records, as well as local building permits (from which much tax assessor's appraisal information is derived) for all years prior, and ascertain the history of the property vis-a-vis assessed valuation.

                As for its valuation since the fire, that should be super easy: Was there a change in assessed valuation due to destruction? Was the structure rebuilt? Were permits pulled for the reconstruction? What do those permits say?

                This is not rocket science, just gumshoe work. Somebody's gotta go down to the county recorder's office, the department of buildng and safety, and the assessor's office, as well as talking to the neighbors (to verify that what's going on on the ground matches up with the official paperwork; i.e., there's really only a 6,000-sf house there, not a 15,000 behemoth, etc.).

                It's Journalism 101 - which, of course, nowadays means it might well never get done . . .

                As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. - Justice William O. Douglas

                by occams hatchet on Sun Oct 08, 2006 at 05:45:51 PM PDT

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            •  Good On You! (2+ / 0-)
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              occams hatchet, ca democrat

              How about that Seller: (blank)!  Whazzup with that?  But no mention of a second dwelling on the property referred to in the diary.

              Is this record for the property in question, or does another tax record cover the second dwelling?  Is their another property Hunter might have purchased in the Alpine locale?

              Something doesn't seem to compute.

              They burn our children in their wars and grow rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

              by Limelite on Sun Oct 08, 2006 at 07:05:21 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  It could be any number of things (2+ / 0-)
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                Limelite, ca democrat

                My guess is the seller was the same as the Lender (Valle de Oro Bank), since, according to some info I Googled earlier today (sorry, don't have the links anymore), VDOB took over some assets from a failed bank in the late '80s or early '90s, presumably including some residences, as REO (Real Estate Owned) through the Resolution Trust Corp.

                This type of information often doesn't show up on the type of profile I noted above. It's usually a very simple matter of bureaucratic something or other, not malicious intent. But you never know.

                As far as other properties owned by Hunter, this was the only one I could come up with in San Diego County - although it's entirely possible (if not in fact likely) that he could own others through a trust, LLC, or in his wife's maiden name, for instance.

                As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. - Justice William O. Douglas

                by occams hatchet on Sun Oct 08, 2006 at 11:45:38 PM PDT

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        •  i have asked our Assessor for copies of their (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Benjaminwise, Limelite

          files on properties and there is actually quite a bit they can give you.

          How do you know a Republican is lying? Ask one: If the Republicans can lower gas prices for 60 days before an election, why won't they do it all the time?

          by ca democrat on Sun Oct 08, 2006 at 04:37:58 PM PDT

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      •  We've seen it happen before -- human error. (2+ / 0-)
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        Limelite, ca democrat

        I was talking to a realtor about the listed tax basis for a house we wanted to buy, and how it seemed extremely low for the value/asking price, and she told me that the data entry sometimes gets screwed up.  Also, some assessors are lazy.

        Now, that doesn't mean Hunter isn't running a scam, just that I'm anal retentive about gathering facts.   It seems pretty sketchy to me that he won't allow anyone to see the papers, though I admit I don't understand what he would have on hand besides what he paid and what he put into it -- and spending doesn't necessarily correlate to value.

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