Columbia County Commission to ask for governor's intervention in Kay Allen controversy

 

Columbia County commissioners intend to seek intervention from Gov. Nathan Deal to resolve the ongoing situation with Tax Commissioner Kay Allen.

Commission Chairman Ron Cross said officials have drafted a letter notifying the governor of “alleged misconduct” on the part of Allen, involving additional compensation she collected for decades from Harlem and Grovetown without the commission’s knowledge or consent.

Cross said the letter will be discussed and voted on at a special called commission meeting at 9 a.m. Monday at the Evans Government Complex.

“We will go into executive session and discuss it, and then we will come out to discuss it and vote on it,” Cross said.

Should commissioners approve the letter, the governor has 10 days to decide on a course of action, which could include removing Allen from office, Cross said. He could also choose to not act and let the criminal investigation run its course, he said.

Allen’s agreements with the two cities have been the subject of a joint investigation of the FBI and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office for more than two months. Some of the payments appear to violate a state law that took effect in 2007. The law stipulates that agreements to collect city taxes in counties with more than 50,000 parcels have to be made by the county governing authority, not the tax commissioner.

Columbia County crossed the 50,000 threshold in 2009. Since that time, Allen has collected more than $160,000 in additional compensation from Harlem and Grovetown – 2 percent of each city’s property taxes.

Sheriff’s investigators turned over their files to Augusta District Attorney Ashley Wright’s office on Friday, sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris said.

“After a complete and thorough investigation into allegations against Tax Commissioner Kay Allen, we have delivered our files to the District Attorney’s Office,” Morris said.

Wright said it will take a while to review the sheriff’s files and she expects more investigative information to be coming her way from the FBI.

“This was a joint investigation, so I would expect that another file would be forthcoming,” she said.

Dwight Johnson, Allen’s former deputy tax commissioner who was fired in October, said he first met ith the FBI in August to report suspicious activity he had observed in the Tax Commissioner’s Office.

That activity included improper use of county vehicles and checks from Harlem and Grovetown in envelopes marked “confidential,” Johnson said.

“I did not know exactly what was going on,” said Johnson, who also reported what he knew to county officials in October, just before Allen fired him for alleged “misappropriation” of $55 cash from the Appling Tag office. Johnson said the firing was about personal conflicts and the fact he planned to run for tax commissioner in 2016.

Johnson said Allen told him he wasn’t trusted anymore and reduced his work responsibilities to the point where he had little to do.

Allen has said she was concerned about Johnson’s judgment after the $55 went missing in July. She said she had intended to discipline him before he suddenly went on 12 weeks of medical leave later that month.

Johnson said the stress from work resulted in health problems related to his heart, which is why he took the leave. When he returned from leave, Johnson said Allen refused to allow him to come back to the Tax Commissioner’s office in Evans. Instead she ordered him to report to Kroger and stay there for eight hours.

On Oct. 18, she came to his house with a sheriff’s deputy, demanding that he either resign or be fired.

“She is a bully,” Johnson said. “I was the type of employee that didn’t ask questions. That’s why I survived for 15 years.”

Calls to the Allen home and cell phone were not answered Friday, but rumors swirled that she was tendering her resignation. Those rumors were reported in some media outlets, but turned out to have no validity.

Augusta attorney and close friend of Allen, Jack Long said he had spoken to her and a resignation was not on the table.

“I can tell you that she is not even considering that,” he said.

The rumors of her departure were perhaps fed by Allen’s absence from her office all week.

The one exception was a brief appearance on Wednes­day when she came in to swear in a new deputy tax com­missioner. Steve Adams, who has held a position as an accountant in Allen’s office since 2001, was tapped for the position.

“When I got appointed, that was strictly out of the blue,” Adams said. “It was all news to me.”

Johnson said Adams was the person who first tipped him off to the suspicious payments from Harlem and Grovetown.

“That was about two years ago,” Johnson said.

Adams said he would not comment on the investigation. The former assistant controller and administrator at Medical College of Georgia said he intends to keep things running smoothly during this time of uncertainty.

“I just want to try to help them keep the work flowing as normal and continue to help the citizens of Columbia County,” he said.

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