Columbia County Tax Commissioner Kay Allen’s $160,000 in extra compensation from Grovetown and Harlem was not a violation of state law, and even if it was, it would not be cause to remove her from office, according to a letter from her attorney to Gov. Nathan Deal.
The letter, sent Friday by attorney Douglas Chalmers Jr., argues that the governor has no cause to remove Allen, primarily because she has not violated the state law that applies to such situations.
The letter argues that Allen was unaware of a 2007 change in state law that might have altered her ability to contract with the cities to collect property taxes.
The letter was a response to a Jan. 7 letter from Deal in which referred to accusations of “possible malfeasance” on Allen’s part in regard to her contracts for additional compensation to collect city taxes.
Chalmers’ letter argues that county commissioners failed to make a claim against Allen, which would prompt her removal by the governor.
“In order for this statute to apply, a tax commissioner must ‘fail or refuse to make payment,’ must ‘make a false return,’ or must ‘fail or refuse to file the report as required,’ ” according to the letter.
Chalmers states Allen’s additional compensation does not apply to any of these situations.
“While we deny that Commissioner Allen collected fees contrary to law, accepting fees contrary to law does not implicate” the statute, Chalmers said.
Allen’s additional fees have been the subject of a joint investigation by the FBI and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office for several months.
In December, sheriff’s investigators delivered their files to District Attorney Ashley Wright.
County commissioners sent a letter to Deal on Dec. 23, seeking his intervention. They contend that Allen’s $160,000 in additional pay for collecting city taxes was contrary to law and without their knowledge.
Wright said Friday that she was still evaluating the case and declined to speculate on what action she might take.
Chalmers’ letter also claims that Allen was unaware that the law that applies to tax commissioners’ compensation had changed in 2007, or that changes in the number of parcels in Columbia County made the new law applicable to her arrangements in 2009.
“The principal issue appears to be, after 2009, whether the County should have had a role in determining the amount of her compensation,” Chalmers wrote.
The letter states that Allen is willing, however, to work with the county commission to address their concerns, and even reimburse the county for fees, should commissioners decide that she was paid too much for her services to the cities.
“Commissioner Allen is hopeful that, if the County Commission addresses this issue with her reasonably and in good faith, an appropriate resolution can be reached,” the letter states.