By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Friday, May 27th, 2011 at 1:59 pm in Contra Costa County.
The Contra Costa Assessment Appeals Board has upheld the appointment of attorney Arthur Walenta to the three-member panel that will rule on Chevron’s multi-million-dollar property value appeal. (Read the five-page decision below.)
Chevron sought Walenta’s disqualification, saying that as an ex-county attorney who relies on the public agency for his pension and benefits, he is inherently biased in favor of his former employer.
Fellow Appeals Board member Clark Wallace, who ruled on the request, rejected Chevron’s assertions on all counts.
The oil company failed to prove any real or perceived bias and “Any effect of the Assessment Appeals Board’s decision on Walenta’s pension is too remote, contingent and speculative to be a financial interest that requires his disqualification,” Wallace wrote in the five-page decision.
Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond, who appointed Walenta to the Appeals Board, concurred.
“Keeping a Harvard-educated lawyer with integrity and assessment appeals experience on the panel will serve the public interest in getting to a fair resolution of this issue,” Gioia said.
A successful appeal of Chevron’s 2007-2009 assessed value could result in the county and other property tax beneficiaries repaying the oil company up to $60 million.
The oil company successfully appealed its 2004-2006 valuation, which triggered a refund of $18 million from the county’s property tax beneficiaries including cities, schools, fire, water and other special districts. Chevron and the county are countersuing the appeals board decision in Superior Court.
Chevron has also appealed its 2010 assessed valuation, which won’t be heard until after the resolution of the 2007-2009 dispute. Hearings could start late this summer or early fall.