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CoCo assessor’s race ratchets up

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Monday, October 5th, 2009 at 4:35 pm in 2010 election.

Bob Brooks

Bob Brooks

Assessor Gus Kramer

Assessor Gus Kramer

If it talks and walks like a campaign, well, then perhaps the fight over the Contra Costa assessor’s seat officially started today.

Likely Contra Costa County assessor candidate Bob Brooks, an Antioch businessman and vice chairman of the Contra Costa Assessment Appeals Board, fired back today at incumbent Assessor Gus Kramer.

In a press release issued today (see full text below), Brooks took exception to the incumbent’s quote in the Martinez News-Gazette, where Kramer said that Brooks promised to run only if Kramer retired.

According to Brooks, he met with Kramer to inform him that he had been asked to run for the seat.

In response, Brooks said Kramer asked him to hold off until the last filing day in February 2010, and if he had not cleaned up his problems related to a recent unflattering series of stories in the Contra Costa Times, he would retire early and recommend that the Board of Supervisors appoint Brooks.

Brooks said he agreed to Kramer’s request but said there was no talk of waiting to see if the incumbent would retire.

“Kramer’s misrepresentation (in the News-Gazette) cancels the agreement,” Brooks said in his release.

Kramer, who says he has every intention of running for re-election, called Brooks’ account of the June conversation false and responded with a statement of his own:

“As an Appeals Board member, Mr. Brooks should know it is a inappropriate and a conflict of interest to be discussing his vote to lower Chevron’s property taxes by over $12 million, especially considering that the Chevron appeal is still in progress.

“Mr. Brooks’ version of the conversation we had in June is not factual and is very self-serving.

“The State Board of Equalization, who conduct audits of every county assessor’s office, just published their audit findings giving Gus Kramer and the Assessor’s Office staff the highest marks of excellence. I believe the state audit report speaks for itself. The audit findings are public information and can be reviewed on the State Board of Equalization web site at www.boe.ca.gov.”

In particular, the state auditor examined how the Contra Costa County Assessor’s Office valued staff-owned properties. Kramer is an active property investor and allegations outlined in recent Contra Costa Times stories centered around how he and his staff handled his holdings. The auditors found no problems associated with assessments of staff-owned properties. (Click here to read the BOE press release and access the link to the 61-page report.)

Read on for the full content of Brooks’ statement:

Brooks Poised to Run

The 2010 Contra Costa County Assessor campaign began on October 1, 2009 when the Martinez Gazette reported that incumbent Assessor Gus Kramer maligned the integrity of potential challenger Bob Brooks.  The Contra Costa County Assessor determines the value of all real estate in the county, plus some personal property.

Bob Brooks is the Contra Costa County Assessment Appeals Commissioner who presided over the multi-billion dollar Chevron assessment appeal – the largest and longest assessment appeal case in Contra Costa County history.  That process concluded, in September 2009, with a new valuation of the Chevron refinery property in Richmond.

E. R. (Bob) Brooks, M.B.A., has had a long and successful career as a real estate broker and business owner.  His training, experience, and judgment would make him an ideal Assessor, just as Captain Chesley Sullenberger’s training, experience, and judgment made him the ideal pilot to land a powerless passenger plane in New York’s Hudson River last January.

Earlier this year, the Contra Costa Times published a series of articles about alleged misconduct by incumbent Assessor Gus Kramer.  According to Assessment Appeals Commissioner Brooks, during the era of those misconduct articles:  “I met with Gus Kramer to inform him that I had been asked to run against him.  That is the only one-on-one meeting we have ever had.  At that meeting, Kramer asked me:  (1) to give him a chance to work out his public problems;   (2) to hold off, until February 2010, announcing that I am running for the job of Assessor; and (3) to just tell people you are still considering it but haven’t made a decision yet.  Kramer concluded by saying:  if I haven’t cleaned up this mess by the last filing day, in February 2010, I will retire and recommend you to the Board of Supervisors as my replacement.  I told Gus Kramer that:  (1) I thought I could do that and (2) I would begin doing the prep work for a 2010 run so that I would not be too far behind by waiting until February to announce a decision.”

According to the 10/1/09 Martinez Gazette, Gus Kramer said:  “I’ve talked to Brooks, and he told me he was not going to run against me.  Only if I retired would he run.  I took him at his word.”

Bob Brooks’ response is:  “I kept my word.  I never promised Gus Kramer that I wouldn’t run against him.”  The Gus Kramer misrepresentation, as reported by the Martinez Gazette, cancels the agreement to wait.

Soon, Bob Brooks will announce that he is the Assessor candidate with exemplary training, experience, and judgment – to restore integrity to the Assessor’s Office and to the assessment process.

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