FBI Reviewing Putnam County Property Assessments - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NC5 Investigates: Putnam Property Assessor

FBI Reviewing Putnam County Property Assessments

Posted: Updated: Oct 15, 2012 10:00 PM
Former Property Assessor Rhonda Chaffin Former Property Assessor Rhonda Chaffin

By Ben Hall
Investigative Reporter

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation are asking questions involving former Putnam County Property Assessor Rhonda Chaffin.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates has learned FBI agents recently interviewed at least one employee who worked in Chaffin's office.

That employee told NewsChannel 5  that agents asked numerous questions about why Chaffin's office undervalued properties belonging to some of the county's wealthiest citizens.

The FBI will not confirm or deny investigations, so there is no way to know if this is a formal or preliminary investigation.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates first revealed that Chaffin's office undervalued properties of prominent landowners.

Now, the current property assessor Travis Roberts, has confirmed that he is finding more properties that appear undervalued.

Employees in Roberts' Office are poring over past property appraisals.

"Anything that doesn't look right we will continue to pull those out and point them out to the state, and make corrections,"  Roberts said.

Roberts added that, in just the last month, his employees have found 75 to 100 properties with questionable appraisals.

He said that most of the newly identified properties were depreciated too much, which means the owners paid too little in taxes.

"We are going to do things fair and honestly, straight across the board," Roberts said.  "It doesn't matter who you are, you're going to get a fair appraisal."

Former Property Assessor Rhonda Chaffin defended her work in an interview before she left office.

"You're saying there's nothing wrong with the depreciation,"  NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked.

"No, there's nothing wrong with any of them," Chaffin responded.

After our investigation, the state comptroller's office found that her office undervalued nearly two hundred properties by $82 million dating back to 2009. 

Many of those who benefited owned apartment complexes.

Roberts says his employees are finding the same kinds of problems, both with commercial properties and individual homes.

"Some of them are different names, some are the same," Roberts said of the owners of the 75-100 newly flagged properties.

Roberts explained that state officials are now visiting the properties his office has identified to determine if they were undervalued -- which means the county may be sending reassessment notices to even more taxpayers.

The under-appraised properties have cost Putnam County taxpayers a lot of money. 

As a result, the county stands to collect nearly $1.5 million dollars from landowners who underpaid on their on taxes dating back to 2009. 

All those landowners can still appeal the state ruling.

Email: bhall@newschannel5.com

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