County Assessor Missing (in) Action

When the South Bend Tribune headline reads, "St. Joseph County assessor not seen in office for weeks," one can be fairly confident it’s going to be an interesting story. I wasn’t disappointed.

Although the recent focus has been on townships and how their usefulness has long since gone away in most cases, the original local government efficiency recommendations from the Kernan-Shepard Commission also noted that county officials (like the assessor) should be appointed rather than elected. Wouldn’t that come in handy in this case?

Here’s a brief excerpt below and a link to the full story.

St. Joseph County Assessor David Wesolowski, defeated in his Democratic primary bid this spring for a seventh term, has not been at work since at least mid-April.

Wesolowski confirms that he’s been out of the office for several weeks but says he’s been taking some deserved time off.

"He’s been in hiding," said Dennis Dillman, a member of the Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals, which operates out of the same office as Wesolowski on the third floor of the County-City Building.

Reached by cell phone Friday, Wesolowski explained that he took time off in April to campaign and that he has been on vacation since "for health purposes and everything else, too."

"I’m entitled to that," he said, adding that he has kept in touch with the office by both phone and e-mail and even visited there Wednesday afternoon.

As an elected official, Wesolowski is not required by state law to work a certain number of hours or to report the hours that he does work. He receives no set number of vacation days, personal days or sick days. 

Government Efficiency Still Top Priority for Commission Members

Members of the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform didn’t abandon the cause after coming up with their far-reaching and meaningful recommendations in late 2007. The six months of work in compiling the report obviously became personal for the commission members – co-chairs Joe Kernan and Randall Shephard along with Ian Rolland and John Stafford of Fort Wayne, Sue Ann Gilroy and Louie Mahern of Indianapolis, and Adam Herbert of Bloomington.

Kernan, at the Indiana Chamber’s request, jumped in early this year with a series of video messages and BizVoice magazine article emphasizing the need for reform and discussing the findings/recommendations in specific issue areas. The former governor – along with Shepard, Stafford and Mahern, in particular – has been out on the speaking circuit ever since the report was released. They, along with others, recognize the challenge. It’s fair to say they (again, along with proponents who understand the importance of modernizing a system that has been in place for more than 150 years) wished more progress had taken place during the General Assembly session, but as political veterans they also realize little could be done with the runaway train that became homeowner property tax relief.

It’s no secret that Gov. Daniels will be focusing on this topic in his re-election bid and, if successful, in the 2009 legislative agenda. The status quo must change – at all levels. The numbers are in the report; the message is the same as those four words from Kernan upon its release – “If not now, when?”