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Sheriff's inquiry focuses on tax commissioner's city contracts

Tax Commissioner Allen possibly paid illegally for services

Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 4:02 PM
Last updated Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013 1:31 AM
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The Columbia County sheriff’s office is investigating allegations of wrongdoing against Tax Commissioner Kay Allen, officials confirmed Friday.

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Columbia County Tax Commissioner Kay Allen (left) is compensated 2 percent of total property taxes collected in Harlem and Grovetown.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/FILE
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/FILE
Columbia County Tax Commissioner Kay Allen (left) is compensated 2 percent of total property taxes collected in Harlem and Grovetown.

Columbia County sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris said the sheriff’s office had an ongoing investigation into “allegations” related to the Tax Commissioner’s office, but declined to say more or provide additional details.

However, part of the investigation appears focused on Allen’s contracts to collect taxes for the cities of Harlem and Grovetown. City and county officials confirmed that sheriff’s investigators have requested records related to those contracts, which might be contrary to state law.
County Attorney Doug Batchelor confirmed Friday that he had been asked to provide an opinion related to state law and the Tax Commissioner’s relationship with Harlem and Grovetown, which was given to the sheriff’s investigators last week.

According to documents acquired by The Augusta Chronicle through open records requests, Allen has been collecting taxes for Grovetown for the past 20 years. Harlem has records of payments made to Allen for the tax collection service dating back to at least 1999.

Grovetown City Administrator Shirley Beasley and Harlem City Manager Jason Rizner supplied copies of contracts signed by Allen for the tax collection service. The cities have agreed to pay Allen 2 percent of total property taxes billed. This year that amounted to $36,000 – $29,000 from Grovetown and $7,000 from Harlem – that Allen pocketed as personal compensation for her services.

Over the past five years, those payments to Allen have totaled more than $160,000.

Allen’s total compensation in 2013, including the payments from Harlem and Grovetown, came in at $171,597, according to documents acquired by The Chronicle.

Allen said she is allowed to collect and keep those payments under state law.

“Absolutely, that is my money,” she said. “I have a contract with them. Where else can they get that kind of service for that amount of money?”

State law allows tax commissioners to enter into such agreements with cities and receive direct compensation, but only in counties that have fewer than 50,000 parcels. In counties with more than 50,000 parcels, the county itself must enter into such agreements and can, in turn, pay the tax commissioner for providing the service.

Columbia County has more than 55,000 parcels. Officials say the county probably crossed the 50,000 parcel threshold four or five years ago.

Like most officials, Batchelor said he learned of Allen’s arrangement in October.

That’s when Commission Chairman Ron Cross and County Administrator Scott Johnson said they first learned Allen was getting paid to collect taxes for the cities. Both declined to express an opinion on the situation, but confirmed an investigation was underway.

The investigation appears to have been initiated not long after Allen fired Deputy Tax Commissioner Dwight Johnson.

Johnson – an employee of 15 years – was fired Oct. 18 after he returned to work from 12 weeks of medical leave. Allen said the dismissal stemmed from $55 in cash that went missing from her office in July.

Allen said the missing money and subsequent dismissal was related to the sheriff’s inquiry but declined to elaborate.

“I will tell you that started an investigation,” Allen said. “That’s all I can say about that.”

According to Allen and documents in Johnson’s personnel file, the $55 was in a bank bag sent from the Tax Commissioner’s Appling office to the Evans office on July 5. The money never made it to the bank.

Allen said she found out about the situation when she returned from vacation the following week. She said Johnson couldn’t explain what happened to the money and failed to disclose he had taken another employee with him to the bank to make a deposit.

Johnson denies any deception on his part and admits the $55 was his responsibility although he doesn’t know what happened to it.

He claims the controversy over the missing cash was the culmination of a series of events that led to his ouster.

Johnson said his work relationship with Allen had been deteriorating for months and had really turned sour in May after he told her he intended to run for the Tax Commissioner seat in 2016.

“She always said, ‘I’ve got five other people in line if you don’t like the way I do things,’” said Johnson, who declined to discuss the investigation against Allen.

Allen, however, said the firing has nothing to do with politics. She said Johnson’s dismissal was entirely linked to his job performance.

“The missing money was the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

SERVICES TAB

Payments from Harlem and Grovetown to Columbia County Tax Commissioner Kay Allen total more than $160,000 over the past five years. The cities pay 2 percent of total property taxes billed.

YEARHARLEMGROVETOWN
2009$5,000$25,000
2010$5,000$25,500
2011$5,000$26,300
2012$5,000$28,500
2013$7,000$29,000
Comments (48) Add comment
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rebellious
20780
Points
rebellious 12/14/13 - 08:26 pm
14
1
Good Old Columbia County Politics

If Allen is on the wrong side of the power structure, Look Out. She will be gone faster than a hot dog dropped on the floor of a kennel.

Had a relative in public service who ran afoul of a certain influential Real Estate mogul/Commissioner. Became a vendetta, political assassination wasn't good enough. Went after the job, you know, the whole "You'll never work in this town again" thing. Damn near was successful. Yessir, best be careful in Columbia County. Them there boyz play for keeps.

And Old Blood families don't like them newcomers!
http://newstimes.augusta.com/stories/2010/10/06/new_591634.shtml

Riverman1
84117
Points
Riverman1 12/14/13 - 10:23 pm
12
2
Huh???

You've got to be kidding me. There is no way she wasn't using Columbia County facilities and resources to collect those taxes. Make her pay back the $160,000 and do community service picking up trash along side Washington Rd. for many months.

nocnoc
42706
Points
nocnoc 12/14/13 - 09:31 pm
12
1
Sounds like she struck GOLD

Question:
Interested to know did she claim it on her income taxes?

Riverman1
84117
Points
Riverman1 12/14/13 - 09:57 pm
11
0
Ramifications

This could have ramifications on the Congressional election.

rebellious
20780
Points
rebellious 12/14/13 - 10:04 pm
11
2
I am telling you

there is no witch found without a witch hunt. And who among you is without fault. I promise you, my friends in Columbia County go after their enemies. Nuff and all I got to say about this.

rebellious
20780
Points
rebellious 12/14/13 - 10:06 pm
4
2
SemperParatus
3225
Points
SemperParatus 12/14/13 - 10:47 pm
14
0
GBI

Shouldn't the Georgia Bureau of Investigation be involved in this investigation?

D D DOG
97
Points
D D DOG 12/15/13 - 12:02 am
8
3
NO SURPRISE HERE
Unpublished

Johnson was fired recently for misplacing a $55.00 deposit back in July. Why wasn't Johnson fired in July???(sounds like a bunch of b.s. to me)(definately not political,,,ha,ha)According to this story our Tax Commissioner has illegally taken $160,000.00 and she fired Johnson for misplacing a $55.00 deposit. Come on now K Allen, even you can come up with a better one than that. I say, people of C.C. don't let this travesty of justice get swept under the carpet. Prosecute her to the fullest extent of the law,just like they would you or me if we broke the law. Better watch this one

geecheeriverman
2474
Points
geecheeriverman 12/15/13 - 07:01 am
6
0
Tax Commissioner

Being in the automotive sales business I have visited the tag office many times over the past 8 years, and I will say this is the most efficiently run and most friendly people to deal with in all the surrounding counties. I know Mr Johnson and he is a fine person to help out with any problems you may have. I do not know Ms Allen but I do know her husband, Commissioner Allen. He is a part of the Blue Blood Families in Columbia County and I can see this as an airing of Personal laundry and someone has to fall on the sword. Wonder who it will be?

mycomments
330
Points
mycomments 12/15/13 - 08:43 am
5
0
Richmond County

Does the Richmond County Tax Commissioner have the same deal with the cities of Hepzibah and is it McBean?

InChristLove
22473
Points
InChristLove 12/15/13 - 08:51 am
3
2
D D Dog, Johnson was fired

D D Dog, Johnson was fired Oct. 18 after he returned to work from 12 weeks of medical leave. The missing money occurred in July, then he was on 12 weeks medical leave so when he returned that is when the dismissal took place. I'm assuming it didn't occur sooner because he was out on leave and they waiting until he returned to investigate fully.

Riverman1
84117
Points
Riverman1 12/15/13 - 09:46 am
13
1
Thank You, Steve Crawford

Does anyone actually believe the people of Columbia County would okay our tax commissioner being paid these huge sums to collect taxes for municipalities in our county? Unless Allen has sent out a task force of people she privately paid to collect information in Harlem and Grovetown and construct their tax bills, I assure you she’s using county resources to scarf up this EXTRA $160-170,000 that should have gone to the country treasury.

It’s unambiguously illegal since the county has passed the population limit. But how long has this gone on before without the county knowing? This is common sense improper and illegal. The Sheriff’s Office should charge her. The DA should prosecute. The money should be paid back. People get serious prison time for less. Let one of the Superior Court judges from Columbia County get a hold of her. They start at 20 years and go up. This is the type of Steve Crawford reporting we've been missing.

itsanotherday1
43301
Points
itsanotherday1 12/15/13 - 09:37 am
8
1
Sheriff's Dept investigating

Sheriff's Dept investigating my foot!! To avoid any possibility of bias (and to keep political pressure off Clay Whittle- keep your hands clean my friend), this needs to be investigated by GBI.

augusta citizen
9355
Points
augusta citizen 12/15/13 - 10:57 am
8
1
County resources

I agree Riverman. I can't imagine that she is running this as a business, covering all labor, postage, printing, etc. out of her own pocket, as well as doing this at night or weekends. The time she's at work she's being paid by taxpayers to do that job, not another.

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 12/15/13 - 11:00 am
1
0
She, like all CC bureaucrats, deserve all they can steal.
Unpublished

She, like all CC bureaucrats, deserve all they can steal. She wants her part of the New American Dream. Money is for the taking. Simple fact.

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 12/15/13 - 11:01 am
1
0
Multitasking or doubledipping? Is she also a HOA manager?
Unpublished

Multitasking or doubledipping? Is she also a HOA manager?

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 12/15/13 - 11:03 am
1
0
It never ends. Poverty is not the creator of crime. GREED is.
Unpublished

Where is that $25K from the other tax office?

Stand up
15
Points
Stand up 12/15/13 - 11:57 am
5
1
Another elected official that thinks she runs the country

This is sick! You pay your taxes and this women eats lobster while you eat hamburger! This guy looses his job, benefits and insurance because she is God! Or thinks she is. Why isn't she audited and controlled. Why isn't she watched over? I think there was another employee that this same thing happen too. Has she been contacted. I heard she was going to run for Allen's job and got fired too! I'd am really upset to think she lived high off the hog on tax payers money. Why didn't the money she was allowed to collect go to the county who was paying people to the job. Nice set up....anyone looking for a job?

sewerbabe
71
Points
sewerbabe 12/15/13 - 01:04 pm
6
0
Agree with others

This should be a GBI investigation and not local. With the rates of nepotism far reaching into every aspect of Columbia County government, GBI is logical agency to do this work. Wish everyone could have a cushy building paid by taxpayers to work in and funnel money into their checking accounts. Another scar on our community.

452
Points
Lakeside95 12/15/13 - 03:30 pm
3
1
Really?

Hope she's up to date with her political contributions.

Conservative Man
5564
Points
Conservative Man 12/15/13 - 04:02 pm
2
2
Its a shame...

...that we can't get the same kind of investigations here in RC....I guess our politicians and certain" officials" are just "slicker" than ColCo's..

myfather15
55706
Points
myfather15 12/15/13 - 04:34 pm
1
2
Stand Up

Great comment, I agree 100%!!

myfather15
55706
Points
myfather15 12/15/13 - 04:45 pm
2
2
This appears on the surface

This appears on the surface to be just another sweetheart deal that politicians get, that regular joes can NOT!!!

She is the tax commissioner!! Does anyone else believe it might be a "conflict of interest" for her to be doing personal business with the Cities, within her County? If the parcels are below 50,000 it might be legal, but does that make it right? She is an elected official!! Does anyone believe she wouldn't do personal favors for them to keep these contracts? Even if she wouldn't, would it not be best to eliminate the possibility? Of course not, not with politicians. They NEVER play by the same rules that everyone else does!! They ALWAYS get sweetheart deals and rewards, because of their positions!!

Is it me, or does anyone else believe she probably got these contracts BECAUSE of who she is???

Riverman1
84117
Points
Riverman1 12/15/13 - 04:58 pm
3
1
50,000 Parcel LImit and Misappropriation

"Columbia County has more than 55,000 parcels. Officials say the county probably crossed the 50,000 parcel threshold four or five years ago."

There is no getting around this despite her arrogance.

There is also whether before the 50,000 parcel went in effect 4-5 years ago if the municipalities realized they were lining her personal pockets instead of paying the county since all tax payments are made out to "Kay Allen."

Another major issue is misappropriation of government property. It's pretty obvious this "work" was done by using Columbia County records, information, computers, personnel, utilities and buildings.

Then there is this: "That’s when Commission Chairman Ron Cross and County Administrator Scott Johnson said they first learned Allen was getting paid to collect taxes for the cities."

If they didn't know how was anyone else supposed to? Everyone assumed the money went to Columbia County. It's time for Cross and Johnson to speak out.

applingtaxpayer
29
Points
applingtaxpayer 12/15/13 - 05:02 pm
5
1
KK

Investigate it for yourself ....what time does she show up for work everyday? How did she pay for the interior decorator she has decorate her office for Christmas every year? What happened to the older decorations....did they end up in her own personal house? "Mrs. Allen", as she forces her employees to call her, has been misusing taxpayer dollars for a long time......time for her to go?

myfather15
55706
Points
myfather15 12/15/13 - 05:37 pm
4
1
I wonder if she was doing

I wonder if she was doing some of the Cities tax papers, on County time?

Informedaugusta
3
Points
Informedaugusta 12/15/13 - 07:46 pm
1
2
Seems like this is pretty common

According to this article, doesn't look like she is was initially doing anything illegal. Law changed in 2007 and everybody looked the other way.

http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/fulton-official-personally-profits-fr...

Riverman1
84117
Points
Riverman1 12/16/13 - 11:27 am
2
0
@ InformedAugusta

InformedAugusta, that's an interesting article. It also said the tax commissioners siphoning off this money believe for contracts written before 2007, they could take money from the municipalities. So if a contract was written after 2007 it's in violation of the law. The CCNT has copies of the contracts, I wonder what they are dated?

Most counties don't allow tax commissioners to personally pocket this fee since county facilities are being used. Although your article didn't say anything about it, there's also the 50,000 parcel question.

What amazes me about all this is the Commission Chairman and County Administrator had no idea Allen was pocketing this huge amount while using county facilities.

Ga-Girl
5
Points
Ga-Girl 12/16/13 - 04:09 am
3
0
Greedy !

Guilty or not guilty ? Legal or illegal ? Know one knew that she was collecting this money ? Really? So, if she needs an attorney will the tax paying citizens of Columbia County foot the bill ? She did this because she could get by with it, she's "Mrs. Allen." It is conflict of interest bottom line. She should give the money back to Columbia County, apologize, resign from her throne, do some community service......picking up trash on Washington Road. She actually became frightened when Mr. Johnson mentioned he would run for TC.... come on Mrs. Allen, you fired him for stealing $55.00 and you have taken how much? Because it is yours ? You greedy ole Sal, you ! How many dirty dealings and lies are we the people of Columbia County, Georgia going to be faced with Mrs. Allen. Please clean your desk, resign and go home !!!!!!

WAG
287
Points
WAG 12/16/13 - 08:38 am
0
0
Isn't it funny what goes

Isn't it funny what goes around comes around! The queen is falling! Wonder how more is missing that DJ took. Not the first time!

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