Politics & Government

Politics increased the value of his home by $1.5 million, Bevin charges in appeal

Gov. Matt Bevin bought this mansion in the Louisville suburb of Anchorage earlier this year from a friend and political supporter.
Gov. Matt Bevin bought this mansion in the Louisville suburb of Anchorage earlier this year from a friend and political supporter.

FRANKFORT – Gov. Matt Bevin says he was politically singled out for special treatment when the Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator reassessed his Anchorage mansion and more than doubled the value to $2.9 million.

Bevin’s attorney, Mark Sommer of Louisville, said in an appeal that the only time Jefferson PVA Tony Lindauer has contracted with an independent appraiser to value a residential property during his 11 years in office occurred this spring, and it was for Bevin’s house and two related adjoining tracts.

“This action … speaks volumes regarding the targeted nature of this assessment,” Sommer said in the appeal filed this month with the Jefferson County Board of Assessment Appeals.

Sommer also wrote, “The transparent nature and the political significance of these PVA actions cannot be over emphasized. This is an election year for the Office of the PVA.”

The 11-page appeal focuses on the laws governing the valuation process and alleges unfair special treatment by the PVA. It goes on at length in explaining the serious consequences for intentionally overassessing property.

It says doing so would violate the Kentucky Constitution and state law, can be grounds for removal from office and 'can rise to a misdemeanor under law.”

Lindauer could not be reached by phone Tuesday for comment. Colleen Younger, chief of staff for the PVA’s office, said she could not comment on a pending appeal.

The case is scheduled to be argued before the three-member assessment appeals board on July 23.

In April when the PVA’s new assessment was released, Younger said the office was required to establish a separate value for Bevin’s mansion and the 10 acres on which it sits after it was separated from a larger lot last year and sold to Bevin.

And because this is such a high-profile case, she said, the office believed it should retain “an outside, independent appraisal” to help establish the value.

The gap separating what Bevin and the PVA say the property is worth is vast.

Sommer says the value is $1.39 million based on an appraisal done for Bevin a year ago by Louisville appraiser John May when the property value was also in dispute. Sommer stresses that the assessment appeals board ruled for Bevin and accepted May’s assessment and Lindauer did not appeal it.

This spring, the independent appraiser retained by Lindauer’s office — Otto Spence — concluded Bevin’s property is worth $2.9 million to $3.5 million. Lindauer accepted the low end of that range, and set the value at $2.9 million.

Sommer’s appeal on behalf of Bevin notes that Lindauer initially filed to run for re-election this year but at “the eleventh hour” withdrew and Younger filed to run. Lindauer and Younger are Democrats.

He did not mention that May, a Republican who previously served as PVA by appointment of Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher, has also filed to run for the office.

Gov. Matt Bevin responds during a press conference to an ethics complaint on his Anchorage house, goes on critical rant of the news media. May 26, 2017

The value of Bevin’s home has been a matter of public debate since the spring of 2017, when the Courier Journal reported that a company had bought the mansion and 10 acres for $1.6 million from a company owned by Neil Ramsey. Bevin was living in the house and it was later revealed that he owned the company that purchased the mansion.

Ramsey, the owner of an investment company, is a friend of Bevin. He has been a large donor to the governor’s political committees and last year invested $300,000 through the state government’s “angel” investment tax credit program in Neuronetrix Solutions, a medical device company partly owned by Bevin. As governor, Bevin appointed Ramsey to the board of Kentucky Retirement Systems.

The Courier Journal also reported that the $1.6 million Bevin paid for the property appeared to be low compared to PVA values set by Lindauer’s office of about $3 million for a larger 19-acre tract that included the house and 10 acres bought by Bevin.

Sommer is now stressing that Bevin and Ramsey won their appeal last year. He says that Kentucky law now requires the PVA to retain that value for 2018 because he said there has been no “material change” in the property since May’s appraisal of June 2017.

But this month the PVA denied Sommer's request to reconsider the new higher value, saying “a variety of improvements” had been made on the property since Jan. 1, 2017, and that these "material changes warranted a new assessment for the year 2018."

Sommer offered myriad other arguments in his appeal, among them that the independent appraisal used by the PVA this year is based on “flawed information and assumptions.”

The house, Sommer said, is “well over 150 years old and is in need of repair as a whole. There is much structural and other work that needs to be done.”

On July 17, the Executive Branch Ethics Commission will consider complaints alleging that Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin broke ethics laws when he bought a house from a friend at a price that appeared to be below market value.

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