Fake letter about tax increase handed out in Vancouver

Some Vancouver residents received a fake letter that appeared to come from the governor's office. It said their property tax was increasing. KATU photo

A false letter about a property tax increase from the Washington State Governor's Office was delivered to several Vancouver homes.

The letter told homeowners taxes were going up because of a decision to shut down an oil terminal.

"The governor would not send a note like that. Taxes are set by the state legislature, and at the county and city levels," a spokesperson for Gov. Jay Inslee said in an email response to KATU news.

Gary Berreth got the letter on Thursday. He said it was pinned outside his door.

It reads:

“In the wake of our success shutting down the oil terminal we are close to securing an agreement with Burlington Northern Santa Fe to prohibit the shipment of oil, lumber & coal by rail thru Vancouver. Because this may have an economic impact, I have authorized an adjustment in property taxes to make up the difference.”

The letter includes the state seal and a fake signature from Governor Inslee.

"The concern I had right out of the gate was the fact that it had the State of Washington seal on it. The signature of the Governor. This looks very authentic," Berreth said.

The first thing Berreth did was call the Governor's Office directly. He said he was told the information was not correct.

"It's so easy to be fooled these days. We have to be extra careful," he said.

In the letter, it said Clark County Assessor Peter Van Nortwick and Treasurer Doug Lasher were Cc'd. KATU reached out to both and they each confirmed the letter was false.

Van Nortwick said property taxes were sent out in early March. The bills did receive a tax increase of up to $1,500 because of funding for state schools and emergency service levies, but not because of any decisions made about an oil terminal.

Berreth is concerned about the motivation behind the letter and it influencing voters.

"I believe it's just a campaign of disinformation. It's to confuse voters. We do have the November 2018 election coming up."

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