Livingston Parish Tax Assessor Jeff Taylor faces challenges from two candidates in the Oct. 22 election, one an ally of Parish President Mike Grimmer and another who garnered 1,036 votes when he ran against Taylor four years ago.
Seeking to oust Taylor from office are Corey Delahoussaye, a Denham Springs businessman and contributor to Grimmer’s 2011 re-election campaign; and retired AT&T technician Richard W. Eppinett, who won 3.26 percent of votes in a three-way race for assessor in 2007.
This is Delahoussaye’s first foray into politics, but he is no stranger to Livingston Parish government.
Delahoussaye’s firm, C-Del Inc., has been at the center of a dispute between the Parish Council and Grimmer over debris cleanup after Hurricane Gustav.
On Aug. 27, the Parish Council voted, against Grimmer’s wishes, to terminate the C-Del contract.
Delahoussaye has donated $1,100 to Grimmer’s re-election campaign, financial disclosure forms show.
Grimmer and Taylor have clashed in the past, Taylor has said.
Delahoussaye also has claimed that Taylor’s wife, Delia, was behind documents posted on an anti-Grimmer website.
Delahoussaye has denied that he got into the race at the behest of Grimmer.
“I am not doing this for Mike Grimmer,” Delahoussaye has said. “We don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things.”
Taylor refused to comment on whether he thought Delahoussaye had qualified to run for assessor with encouragement from Grimmer.
“That’s what other people are saying,” Taylor acknowledged. “I have had several people come up to me and say that. Do I believe that? I don’t know.”
Delahoussaye said he is in the race to improve fairness in parish assessments and increase public access to the Assessor’s Office.
Voters will “gladly pay what they have to pay, but it needs to be fair,” Delahoussaye said.
Delahoussaye said one voter had told him of how he and his neighbor had identical houses, yet there was a $500 difference in their property taxes.
Taylor countered that his office relies on people to accurately report the size of their houses.
“A lot of people report square footage differently,” he said. “You can have two houses side by side, and if they bring in a plan that doesn’t show everything, that’s the best information I have.”
When people misrepresent their properties, “we catch them, and when we do, we take care of it,” Taylor said.
Two houses that look identical from the outside could be radically different inside, Taylor said.
Delahoussaye also has focused on making the Assessor’s Office more accessible to working people, he said.
Currently, the office is open from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
“I definitely want the office open Monday through Friday,” Delahoussaye said. “I would also like to open a satellite office in Denham Springs, maybe share it with the clerk of court.”
Eppinett, the third candidate in the race, agreed the office should keep open more hours per week.
Eppinett said that, if elected, he would order the office to stay open for at least a half-day on Saturdays, which would not cost extra because he would schedule days off for employees during the week.
Taylor said the current hours of operation are intended to make it easier for residents to visit the office.
“The reason that we are open these hours is because people were complaining that they couldn’t get here on weekdays between 8 and 4,” he said. “Being open until 5:30 helped that problem.”
Taylor said although the Assessor’s Office is closed on Fridays, there are staff members on duty and, “if somebody comes to the door, we are going to let them in.”
Taylor also said that the current schedule allows his employees to spend more time in the field, with less driving time.
Early voting begins Oct. 8 and runs through Oct. 15, with the exception of Sunday, Oct. 9. A runoff election, if necessary, will be held Nov. 19.