Manning, who retired as chief appraiser this year, told The Post that he believed the female appraisers who filed suit were “disgruntled” employees with some overblown claims, such as being denied equipment. But Manning acknowledged that he had multiple conversations with George about his management style in the months leading up to George’s termination. “At the very least, he wasn’t polite when he talked to people,” Manning said.
In court documents and interviews, the female appraisers also said they were forced to sign off on lower property values — a concern shared by Manning and Fulton County Board of Assessors Chairman Bill Huff.
Huff told The Post that George made “unilateral decisions” to change values. Manning recounted similar concerns. Assessments “would make it to Tony’s desk and he would send it back down and say, ‘Lower it . . . sign it and send it back up,’ ” Manning said.
Two of the appraisers, Rebecca Canada and Theresa McGruder, both of whom were fired under George, said in an interview with The Post that they were uncomfortable with some of the lowered values that they were being asked to approve. Canada and McGruder said they began writing “Per Tony George” on changed assessments.
In the complaint, a third appraiser described similar pressure by supervisors under George: “The assessments presented for her to sign that she had not worked up or been allowed to study were incorrect and did not follow county and tax office policy, and were inconsistent with what was legally required of appraisers.”
During his deposition in the case, George said that appraisers did not complain to him about improper reductions in property values, although he said several managers flagged reductions made by another supervisor. Manning told The Post that he eventually changed procedures to ensure that appraisers were not forced to sign off on values they did not agree with.
Friends with ‘Big Poppa’
The Post obtained information about George’s termination through interviews and his personnel file, which was provided by Fulton County after a public records request. The file did not contain specific details about the events leading to George’s termination, such as examples of properties that had received lower assessments during George’s tenure.
But attorneys for the six female appraisers have asked questions in depositions about one property owner, Lee Najjar, also known as “Big Poppa,” a well-known developer often mentioned on television by former girlfriend Kim Zolciak, one of the stars of the reality series “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”
Najjar’s company owned a shopping mall outside Atlanta in Union City. During his deposition in the lawsuit, George acknowledged being friends with Najjar and said he had inspected Najjar’s house. “I inspect occasionally properties of all types — it’s a very nice house,” George said.