Commissioners ask Assessor for answers on costly computer program

MONTESANO — Assessor Rick Hole met with the county commissioners Monday morning and asked them to allow his office to continue spending money for special software designed to help the county with its annual property revaluation process.

The commissioners rejected his request, tabled the matter until next week and all three say they have more questions for Hole.

The meeting came less than a week after County Commission Chairman Frank Gordon demanded Hole’s resignation for spearheading what Gordon characterized as a botched software program that has yet to generate much of anything despite using state grant funding valued at between $150,000 and $200,000.

Neither Hole nor Gordon directly commented on the resignation demand during the meeting. Afterward, Hole said he was still working on a response to Gordon’s complaints and had no intention of resigning. And Gordon said he planned to renew his complaints with the state Department of Revenue this week with hopes the state agency may take action against Hole.

“We’ve been so focused on the program that the other part that the Assessor’s Office does has slid through the wayside,” Gordon said. “The rest of the state is sitting and holding its breath waiting for Grays Harbor County. The state can’t do some of its functions for school levies and things of that nature because we don’t have numbers. And I think that other part of the problem that has caused this is we’ve been so focused on this here (computer) program.”

Gordon says the biggest concern is that the county would spend more money on the program and it just doesn’t work.

“If we dump more money into this and, by the first of the year it doesn’t work, we’re really in a nightmare,” Gordon told Hole.

Hole brought Bernie Benson with Dohdoh Design, the latest contractor responsible for overseeing the program, who noted that he is the third consultant brought on to do the program after “two other failed attempts” by other contractors.

Benson and Hole both said they were about six months away from finishing the program. At this point, both admit, the program is still in its infancy. Benson said his firm had just started working on the program in August — a full 13 months after two other contractors had tried and failed at designing something. Gordon has asked the state Auditor’s Office to look into one of those contractors for potential fraud charges.

Benson admitted he had no real knowledge of the county’s base software used in the program, a language called Delphi, and was learning on the job.

That brought a sharp rebuke from County Commissioner Wes Cormier, who noted that when Benson was hired it should have been Hole’s job to find someone who actually knew the program and the county shouldn’t have had to pay for Benson and his firm to figure it out on the job. That would be like hiring a construction crew that had to learn how to construct a building while on the job, Cormier said.

“It’s uncommonly in use,” Benson said, adding that the county would have had to go to Europe to find someone who knew the system.

The new budget and scope created a whole new set of questions, Cormier said, about why the first billings were so high to begin with and what the county actually got for its money.

A date of the next meeting has not been set.


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