Property assessment questioned

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HARRIMAN, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The Regions Bank building in Harriman was originally assessed at about $2.1 million. But when Dr. Clary Foote bought it at auction for about $280,000 in late 2011, he did what most of us would do: asked then-property assessor Teresa Kirkham for a new appraisal.

"I mean, if you had a home and you paid $200,000 for it, you wouldn't want it appraised at a million dollars," said Dr. Foote.

But current property assessor David Morgan said things didn't work out as Dr. Foote had hoped:

"They went out sometime in the middle of January and did the field check, the appraisal. And they actually found more square footage than what we'd had in the system. So that drove the value up to $2.5 million," said Morgan.

Then last month, David Morgan said he and an appraiser found something unusual in their records: the building's value dropped from about $2.5 million in January, to $1.5 million in February. And, he added, Kirkham may have lowered the building's value because she was in a relationship at the time.

"We found out that one of the codes had been changed. And he said, 'I didn't change that code.' And I said, 'What code?' And he said 'It should be a bank building - that's its primary use, it's a bank building. And now it's listed as an exceptional building.' And we looked on down the page on the property card and the base rate had gone from about $130 a square foot to about $60 a square foot," said Morgan.

Morgan explained there's a standard check and balance procedure for changing property values, and doesn't think it was followed.

Teresa Kirkham said she changed the building's value, but explained it wasn't because she was dating Dr. Foote. She said she did it because the building sold for a much lower price - and she did nothing wrong.