TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas tax consultant who told his clients in a letter that he worked with the governor’s office to rid the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals of employees who weren’t “taxpayer friendly” recanted that claim this week after the governor’s office denied it.
In a July 14 letter obtained by the Topeka Capital-Journal, Jerry Chatam, president of Overland Park-based J.W. Chatam & Associates, told clients he worked with Gov. Sam Brownback’s office on a “final solution” to long-standing issues with the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals.
“All employees of the agency, (Board of Tax Appeals) are under review for their involvement in the Board/Court’s antics that created this mess,” Chatam told his clients. “We will see several additional Board employees depart the agency in short order. All remaining Board employees will meet with the Governor’s office and, per Governor’s Chief of Staff, they will be taxpayer friendly. So ends an 18 month battle for justice.”
Brownback’s chief of staff, Landon Fulmer, told the newspaper he did not know what Chatam was talking about and that he has only spoken with the consultant once, months ago.
“Further, I do not have the authority to determine operational or staffing matters at the Board of Tax Appeals and I have no plans to meet with members of the board’s staff,” Fulmer said.
The tax board’s rulings and the pace of its decisions have drawn the ire of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Policy Institute, the Kansas Association of Realtors and attorneys. Those groups successfully lobbied the Legislature this year to change the board’s procedures and its name, which was formerly the Kansas Court of Tax Appeals. Chatam was among those who testified in favor of the changes.
Chatam told the newspaper Wednesday his predictions about the departure of board employees were not statements of fact.
“I sent a letter out that was what I understood,” Chatam said. “Some of it was my opinion. I was probably a little overzealous and happy that we were having changes up there that were going to be fair.”
Chatam said he did not “have any open communication with the governor’s office” and was merely relaying what was told to him secondhand by legislators.
“Maybe it wasn’t the chief of staff, maybe I got the name wrong,” Chatam said. “I wasn’t sure. I didn’t have any conversation with anybody in Brownback’s office.”
Steven Miles, Douglas County appraiser and president of the Kansas County Appraiser’s Association, said he saw Chatam’s letter but doubted its veracity.
“I guess my personal first impression was shock and frustration that somebody could even feel they had that much power to sway things as he purports in the letter,” Miles said.
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