BEFORE THE STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
FOR THE STATE OF WYOMING
IN THE MATTER OF THE APPEAL OF )
DONALD E. BENDER FROM A DECISION )
OF THE UINTA COUNTY BOARD OF ) Docket No. 2000-128
EQUALIZATION-2000 PROPERTY )
FINDINGS OF FACT
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
DECISION AND ORDER
Donald E. Bender, pro se, Petitioner.
The Uinta County Assessor neither appeared nor filed a brief in this matter.
This matter was considered by the State Board of Equalization (SBOE), Edmund
Schmidt, Chairman, Roberta Coates, Vice-Chairman and Ron Arnold, Member, on
written information pursuant to a Briefing Order (Locally Assessed Property)
dated August 15, 2000. This matter arises from a dismissal of the Uinta County
Board of Equalization (CBOE) of Petitioner's appeal concerning the Assessor's
year 2000 valuations of twenty-one properties owned by individuals other than
Mr. Bender. The issue is:
Was the CBOE decision which dismissed Petitioner's complaint for lack of standing consistent with the law?
Pursuant to Wyo. Stat. 39-11-102.1 (c), the SBOE is mandated to "hear appeals
from county boards of equalization...upon application of any interested person
adversely affected." An appeal from a CBOE decision must be filed with the SBOE
within thirty (30) days from entry of the CBOE decision. Petitioner timely filed
Mr. Donald E. Bender requested that the CBOE review the assessments on his
property located at 231 Rimrock Drive, Evanston, Wyoming, and on approximately
twenty-one properties of which Petitioner had no property interest. Petitioner
was not acting as an agent or an attorney in fact for the owners of these other
properties. The CBOE entered its order dismissing Petitioner's complaint finding
that he lacked standing to challenge the tax assessments for properties in which
he lacked any legal or equitable interest. Petitioner did receive a contested
case proceeding before the CBOE on his own property which decision he has
appealed to the SBOE and is docketed as number 2000-159.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. Donald E. Bender, Petitioner filed a Notice of Appeal with the SBOE on
July 17, 2000.
2. By letter dated May 19, 2000, Petitioner requested the Uinta County Board
of Equalization to review the tax assessments of his own property and twenty-one
properties owned by others in Uinta County. [CBOE Record]
3. There is no evidence in the CBOE record establishing the twenty-one
properties were owned by Petitioner nor establishing Petitioner had
authorization to represent the property owners.
4. Petitioner does not challenge the CBOE's determination that he did not
have legal or equitable ownership in the twenty-one other properties.
5. On June 21, 2000, the CBOE sent a document entitled "Notice from the Uinta
County Board of Equalization" to Petitioner denying Petitioner a hearing on the
twenty-one properties on the grounds that Petitioner lacks standing to challenge
twenty-one properties in which he held no legal or equitable interest.
Petitioner was afforded a hearing on the property in which he held an interest.
6. During oral argument before the SBOE, Petitioner admitted he did not have
either legal or equitable ownership in the twenty-one properties and he did not
have authority to represent the twenty-one property owners. [SBOE tape
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
7. The notice of appeal was timely filed and the SBOE has
jurisdiction to determine this matter.
8. Only the legal or record owner of property may appeal that property's tax
assessment. Wyo. Stat. 39-13-109 (b)(i).
9. Petitioner argues that he actually filed two actions before the CBOE. He
claims he filed a complaint and a protest pursuant to Wyo. Stat. 39-13-102
(c) (iv) and (v).
10. Petitioner then argues he has the statutory right to complain about
properties in which he has no legal or equitable interest because Wyo. Stat.
39-13-102 (c)(iv) reads;
Hear and determine the complaint of any person relative to any property
assessment or value as returned by the county assessor subject to W.S. 39-13-109
11. Petitioner would have the SBOE interpret the words of that section
without reference to Wyo. Stat. 39-13-109 (b)(i).
12. The reference to section 109 (b)(i) is clearly the modifier of every word
and phrase in section 102 (c)(iv). The legislative intent is clear and the
language is unambiguous. Every property owner of any kind of property being
subjected to an ad valorem tax by the county assessor is entitled to have his or
her tax appeal heard by the CBOE.
13. Although the language in the statutory title by itself is not
determinative of the legislative intent, if its purport is the same as the
language in the body of the section, it can corroborate the legislative intent.
Ward v. Board of Com'rs of Johnson County, 256 P. 1039 (Wyo. 1927).
14. The title of section 109 (b)(i) is "Taxpayer remedies." Reading together
both the title and the substance of the text, one is compelled to conclude the
legislative intent was to afford relief to taxpayers who are the owners of the
property subjected to the ad valorem tax.
15. Petitioner's argument that he actually filed two actions, a complaint and
a protest, one of which Petitioner claims was not addressed by the CBOE, lacks
merit. Petitioner's reliance on Wyo. Stat. 39-13-102 (c)(v) as
authorizing a separate action from a complaint, is misplaced. That subsection
merely mandates the CBOE hold hearings and issue written decisions on all those
complaints set forth in the previous subsection (c)(iv). The use of the word
"protest" has no legal significance apart from complaint.
16. Petitioner makes numerous other arguments but we are limited to the
record and our authority is limited to whether the CBOE order is supported by
substantial evidence and supported by the law. Consequently, we decline to
address issues outside the scope of the record and proper issues on appeal.
17. The only issue properly before us is whether Petitioner has standing to
contest the tax assessments of properties in which he has no legal or equitable
18. We find that Petitioner does not have standing to challenge the tax
assessments of other taxpayers because he has no tangible interest in those
properties which will be affected by our decision.
19. We do find Petitioner has standing to challenge property tax assessments
in which he may have any interest and in fact the SBOE is considering
Petitioner's appeal on the property he allegedly owns at 231 Rimrock Drive,
Evanston, Wyoming, in SBOE docket number 2000-159.
20. In State, Dept. of Revenue v. Amoco Production Company, 7 P.3d 35
(Wyo. 2000), the Supreme Court stated: "Standing is a concept used to
determine whether a party is sufficiently affected to insure that a justiciable
controversy is presented to the court...."
21. We find Petitioner is not personally affected by the assessments of other
property owners and any interest of Petitioner is merely theoretical which does
not rise to a justiciable controversy. Hirschfield v. Board of County
Commissioners of the County of Teton, 944P.2d 1139,1142 (Wyo. 1997).
22. Petitioner answers the standing question by arguing that he has a
constitutional right to uniform and equal taxation without which he is certainly
23. We find the interest of Petitioner in equal and uniform taxation is only
an intangible interest. In order to maintain standing Petitioner must have a
"tangible interest" at stake. Robinson v. Hamblin, 914 P.2d 152, 154 (Wyo.
1996) citing Schulthess v. Carollo, 832 P.2d 552, 556-57 (Wyo. 1992).
24. Most court decisions hold that "a decision-making body should refrain
from considering issues in which the litigants have little or no interest in
vigorously advocating." State of Wyoming, ex rel, Bayou Liquors v. The City
of Casper, 906 P,2d 1046,1048 (Wyo. 1995).
25. Standing is jurisdictional, cannot be waived and can be raised at any
time, even on appeal. In the Matter of a Petition for Declaration of
Abandonment of Various Water Rights in Lake DeSmet Reservoir, Board of Control,
Docket No. II-77-2-1 et al. v. Texaco, Inc. et al., 623 P.2d 764,767 (Wyo.
26. Petitioner, after the fact, has attempted to bolster his appeal with the
argument that he was really asking the CBOE to equalize the various properties
because he is entitled to have all properties equally and uniformly valued
pursuant to the Wyoming Constitution.
27. No where in the CBOE record nor in the SBOE record except in Petitioner's
appellate brief, is there even a remote request for the SBOE to exercise its
regulatory powers pursuant to Wyo. Stat. 39-11-102.1 (a)(x) to
"[c]arefully examine into all cases wherein it is alleged that property subject
to taxation has not been assessed or has been fraudulently, improperly, or
unequally assessed, or the law in any manner evaded or violated, and cause to be
instituted proceedings which will remedy improper or negligent administration of
the tax laws of the state."
28. We decline to exercise our regulatory powers for several reasons. First,
this case is an appeal from a CBOE decision and we are limited to the record and
the issues properly before us as set forth in the CBOE order appealed from.
Tri-County Elec. Ass'n vs City of Gillette, 525 P.2d 3 (Wyo. 1974). We find
the County would be denied due process if the issues were to change on appeal.
Second, the SBOE rules clearly provide the vehicle to anyone, including
taxpayers, to request a Chapter 10 examination. Chapter 4, SBOE Rules.
Third and foremost, the SBOE's adjudicatory functions are separate and distinct
from its regulatory functions which should not be procedurally intertwined.
Antelope Valley Improvement and Service District v. State Bd. of Equalization, 4
P.3d 876 (Wyo. 2000).
29. The SBOE rules for examination requests were not followed by Petitioner.
This Board is without authority to ignore its own rules and render a decision of
which the County would be totally unaware. An agency acts arbitrarily and
capriciously if it does not follow its own rules. State ex rel. Wyoming
Workers' Compensation Division v. Brown, 805 P.2d 830 (Wyo. 1991).
30. As a matter of law, we hold the CBOE's decision dismissing Petitioner's
complaint for lack of standing on the twenty-one properties in which Petitioner
held no legal or equitable interest is in accordance with law and must be
THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK
IT IS THEREFORE HEREBY ORDERED the decision of the Uinta
County Board of Equalization dismissing Petitioner's complaint is hereby
Pursuant to Wyo. Stat. 16-3-114 and Rule 12, Wyoming Rules of Appellate
Procedure, any person aggrieved or adversely affected in fact by this decision
may seek judicial review in the appropriate district court by filing a petition
for review within 30 days of the date of this decision.
Dated this 8th day of December, 2000.
STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
Edmund J. Schmidt, Chairman
Roberta A. Coates, Vice-Chairman
Ron Arnold, Member
Wendy Soto, Executive Secretary