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Key witnesses take stand in trial over Jackson County’s 2023 assessment process

Assessor and chief critic addressed judge Monday
Preston Smith Trial.JPG
Posted at 7:20 PM, Jul 08, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two key witnesses addressed took the stand Monday in a trial over Jackson County, Missouri’s, 2023 property assessment process.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey sued the county, the legislature, the executive, assessor and others accusing them of mishandling the 2023 property assessment.

First, the plaintiffs called Preston Smith. He’s a statistician and former member of the county Board of Equalization which helps settle property assessment disputes.

The Attorney General’s office hired Smith to be an expert.

He reviewed data from the assessor’s office and from Tyler Technologies, a company the county hired to assist with the assessment.

Smith used the words “outlandish” and “mind boggling” to describe the data he reviewed.

Throughout the day, he pointed out what he considered inconsistencies and inaccuracies. He also highlighted a lack of oversight within the assessment department.

“I dealt with thousands of taxpayers this last year, people worried about losing their homes,” Smith said of a Facebook group in which he helped property owners. “They’re counting on folks like me to step forward and make a difference when they can’t.”

Preston Smith
Preston Smith

The defense poked holes in Smith’s qualifications as an expert in property assessments.

Lawyers also tired to show Smith’s bias against the county highlighting social media posts he’s made about the “deep state” and his disagreement with previous county decisions.

“It’s not a bias; it’s because I’m dealing with people who are hurting and they feel the pain,” Smith defended himself.

Jackson County Assessor Gail McCann Beatty took the stand in the afternoon.

The Attorney General’s office highlighted what they view as McCann Beatty’s failures to properly notify property owners about assessment increases and corresponding inspections.

McCann Beatty did not fold.

She remained steadfast, much like her previous statements to KSHB 41 News.

“I know we’ve been doing everything to follow state statutes,” she said in December. “We put expertise in place to do so.”

The Attorney General’s office is asking the judge to order the county to reduce property values, which would result in taxing jurisdictions to return tax dollars collected in 2023 based on the higher assessments.

The trial will reconvene on Aug. 9.

There is no jury in this case. A judge will make the final judgement.

Judge Karen Krauser from Clay County is overseeing the trial because all Jackson County judges recused themselves as property owners in the county.

Krauser gave the defense permission to depose Attorney General Andrew Bailey directly.

Defense attorneys believe Bailey spoke with a Jackson County legislator about the case during a campaign event. All the legislators are defendants in the case.

Speaking to a defendant about the case may disqualify some of the defendant's testimony.