Bruce Murphy

Hendricks’ Home Is Reassessed

Assessment and taxes on home have been tripled in response to our story.

By - Jun 1st, 2017 12:14 pm
Diane Hendricks' Home on Bing Maps

Diane Hendricks’ Home on Bing Maps

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel buried the lead.

The newspaper did a “Watchdog” report today jumping on Urban Milwaukee’s stories showing the huge home of billionaire Diane Hendricks was under-assessed and a follow-up story we did with the Town of Rock lawyers admitting mistakes were made, that Hendricks had refused entry to an assessor and the assessment would now be revisited.

Considering that Hendricks is the second-richest self-made woman in America, and that “she’s been paying a fraction of the property taxes that would typically be associated with a sprawling mansion such as hers,” as the JS story notes, you might think this would have been a banner headline story.

Nope. The newspaper buried the story under the wonky headline, “When property owners shut door on tax assessors, should they be able to appeal?” and makes no mention of Hendricks until 18 paragraphs into the story, on the jump page in the print edition.

The story leads off like a think piece posing the question of how an assessment should be handled when a taxpayer doesn’t allow an assessor to view the home, with some reporting on two residents of the Town of Dover, Vincent Milewski and his wife, Morganne MacDonald, who live 60 miles away from Hendricks and saw their assessment increase after they barred the assessor.

From there we meander, finally, to Hendricks. Why bury this huge story? Perhaps because that approach allows the newspaper to not credit Urban Milwaukee until graph 23 in the story, deep into the jump page, rather than on the newspaper’s front page, where the story ran on the top of the fold. (The newspaper also didn’t credit reporter Michael Horne, whose dogged reporting broke the story.) In short, it makes this look like a JS story. An added benefit: this approach buried a negative story about a prominent donor to Republicans, thus helping head off inevitable complaints from the paper’s many Republican readers.

The story by JS reporters Raquel Rutledge and Kevin Crowe mostly confirmed Urban Milwaukee’s reporting that Hendricks’ huge mansion was under-assessed as a 1,663-square-foot home and the assessor hadn’t been allowed to visit the property. But the Journal Sentinel was able to get Accurate Appraisal, the private company which handles assessments for the town (and which declined to answer any queries from Urban Milwaukee), to reveal they weren’t aware that Hendricks had built a newer, 8,500-square-foot home and had never seen the building permits taken out when the home was built.

The JS makes clear that the reconsideration of the assessment that Town of Rock lawyers promised Urban Milwaukee has now taken place.

Addie Ebert, Accurate Appraisal’s assessor for the town, told the newspaper that Hendricks met her and Accurate co-owner Jim Danielson, “and gave them a limited tour of the compound. They rode around the property in a utility vehicle, but at no time were they brought to the mansion.

“’They weren’t bringing us anywhere near it,’ Ebert said.”

“However, she said, they could see the house was not the two-bedroom ranch Accurate had recorded in its files.”

As for being allowed to tour the home, “We knew it wasn’t going to happen,” Ebert said. “It was pretty apparent.”

“Some time after the tour, Ebert said she contacted Hendricks’ representative again and asked for access to the mansion. She was told it wouldn’t happen for security reasons.

“They did eventually supply us with the data (on the home)’ Ebert said.”

As a result the home’s assessment nearly tripled, going from $445,700 last year to $1,205,500 this year, the paper reported.

Reporter Michael Horne estimates the reassessment will increase Hendricks annual property tax bill by $12,204. Depending on when the new home was finished — in 2011 or 2012 — she may have underpaid by as much as $55,000 or more.


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20 thoughts on “Hendricks’ Home Is Reassessed”

  1. Important correction to the public record.

  2. John says:

    If you take the time to peruse many of the expensive parcels throughout Wisconsin you likely will find similar instances of this, and I don’t believe it to be a coincidence. Also don’t get me started on commercial real estate assessments. State and it’s taxpayers are getting robbed blind.

  3. Joseph Thomas Klein says:

    What is the earliest Google Earth image?

  4. duncan says:

    “State and it’s (sic) taxpayers are getting robbed blind.” This is half true. It’s just the taxpayers, and more accurately, the local property taxpayers.

    Assessments are just the way of splitting up expenses of (mostly) local government, and who pays what slice .. but the total stays the same. If your property taxes go down a dollar, the rest of your neighbors’ bills go up, net, that dollar.

    Hendricks was screwing her neighbors. And for what? A paltry $12,000? That’s about an hours’ income for a billionaire.

  5. blurondo says:

    The future effect of this dogged work by the free press is that assessors, municipalities, mayors, and local reporters have been put on notice that they are being scrutinized every day without regard to status or location.

  6. tim haering says:

    chump change, I repeat. Have a swell weekend, Bruce. See if you can get a poolside interview with Ms. Hendricks.

  7. Eric J says:

    Good coverage Bruce and Michael and Urban Milwaukee . The assessor was looking the other way all of the time . It’s not very difficult to request and read the progress in an propery building permit file. How many could there be in this townships files ?

  8. reader says:

    Charlie Sykes home is underassessed too.
    all pigs are equal, some more equal than others.

  9. Thomas says:

    Diligent reporting on the Hendricks property resulted in a small victory for the people who pay their fair share in taxes. I offer a high 5 to Michael and Bruce and Urban Milwaukee.

  10. JPK says:

    Doesn’t the County have easement rights? How is it that the assessor was not allowed in the house???

  11. Typical. I bet you never heard about this story either…
    State Legislator Paul Tittl ignores notices to install smoke and CO detectors sending 17 people to the ER in a mass casualty event and its nearly impossible to find a story about it…

  12. Bea says:

    From Tittl’s Facebook page: Political views: Conservative
    Religious Views: Christian-Born Again

  13. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    The real story here is how oligarchs are able to game the system and use influence to get hidden tax breaks (and breaks in local property assessments) that makes the rest of us pay more.

    You’ve done a great public service here, UM. Keep it up.

  14. Peter Bebeau says:

    Pay back the “the $55,000 or more”, she may have underpaid. Building permits and inspection records should prove occupancy.

  15. Paul says:

    Perhaps Urban Milwaukee will get the credit it’s due when this story is reported on TV and AM radio.

  16. Judy says:

    Calling Diane Hendricks the “second richest self-made woman in America” is not only a big stretch (husband Ken founded the company) but also incorrect according to Forbes Magazine. She is not in the top 10; check it out.
    You buried the lead not once, but twice. It is interesting after reading down several paragraphs that her taxes might increase by $12,000 and that she might have underpaid by $55,000, but what IS her old tax, and her new tax? An estimate might have put the article in perspective. Thanks anyway – I hope you’ve started the ball rolling to scrutinize and tax these residences better, assessor on site or not. These drone-aerial views should make their job easier.

  17. Jeramey Jannene says:

    Forbes places her second on the list –

  18. daniel golden says:

    As a retired municipal attorney I repeat my earlier comment about how a responsible assessor would have handled a refusal to allow admission to a parcel of real property, when it is clear based on readily available information that it has been dramatically improved: 1;do a “doomage assessment” which is simply taking the nearest, similar 10,000 square foot property and applying those numbers.or, 2; get an inspection warrant from a circuit court judge to access the property. The fact that the building permits were not collated with the assessment file is either the worst kind of incompetence, or corruption. As to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s candy coating of Diane Hendrick’s less than community spirited behavior, it is another example of why that newspaper has gone from being a reputable information source to having utility as fish wrap only.

  19. Skeptic says:

    “Taxes are for little people” said another rich b*tch.

  20. Kathy says:

    Good work, Bruce. Keep it up!

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