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Allen seeks deal as commission considers action

Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 9:30 PM
Last updated Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 9:48 AM
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While Columbia County commissioners are preparing to meet about possible legal action against Tax Commissioner Kay Allen, her lawyers are still trying to cut a deal.

Columbia County tax chief Kay Allen  denies any wrongdoing.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/FILE
Columbia County tax chief Kay Allen denies any wrongdoing.

Allen’s lead attorney, Douglas Chalmers Jr., has sent a letter to attorneys representing the Columbia County Board of Commissioners stating that his client is still prepared to “work with the county” to resolve the controversy over fees she
has collected from Harlem and Grove­town to compensate her for collecting city taxes.

Commissioners contend that the fees violate state law and that the contracts Al­len entered into with the cities were done without their knowledge or consent. The fees were the subject of a criminal investigation now in the hands of District Attorney Ashley Wright.

Allen has denied any wrongdoing and defends her right to collect payments for those services.

The state law governing these agreements between cities and tax collectors changed in 2007, stipulating that in counties with more than 50,000 parcels such agreements should be between the county and each city. Since Columbia County crossed the 50,000 threshold in 2009, Allen has collected more than $160,000 in such fees as personal compensation.

Chalmers points out that the law does not bar the tax commissioner from being paid for those services.

“Quite simply, when a tax commissioner performs ‘additional duties and responsibilities’ by collecting municipal taxes, he or she receives additional compensation,” according to the letter sent Thursday to Pat O’Connor of the Savannah firm Oliver, Maner & Gray, which has been hired by the county.

Chalmers reasons that it’s not a matter of whether Allen should have been paid, but how much. She is, however, prepared to return at least some of the money to the commission, according to the letter.

“Kay was prepared as necessary to cut a check to adjust her compensation retroactively to whatever level the County reasonably determined was appropriate,” Chalmers wrote.

He states in his letter that he “reached out” to the county Jan. 27 but has not heard back.

“It has now been more than 3½ weeks, and we still have not received a response from the County. We do not know the County’s position on the law, or even whether the County is willing to try to resolve these matters amicably,” he wrote.

Commission Chairman Ron Cross acknowledged that an offer had been made but said it was not acceptable to the commission.

“Basically she has offered to keep her job and pay back a minimal amount,” he said.

The commission announced Thursday that it would convene a special meeting today at 3 p.m. Cross said the purpose is to discuss and decide whether the county should take legal action against Allen, but he declined to elaborate.

Chalmers says in his letter that he is prepared to defend his client in a lawsuit, but hopes to avoid one.

“We respectfully suggest that it would be inappropriate, and a waste of taxpayer resources, for us to attempt to resolve these matters through litigation,” the letter said. “It would be a great disservice to the taxpayers of Co­lumbia County for the Coun­ty’s elected Com­missioners to refuse even to discuss this matter with us and then to simply move forward with a lawsuit.”

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Marinerman1 02/21/14 - 12:50 pm

She does have a problem in the Scott Dean issue. She has the prime witness that testified for the State, who has admitted to lying under oath. She has not indicted the daughter/witness. Between this, and the crazy plea bargains that have come out of her office, she needs to do something... She has been "selectively" hard on crime. I know she doesn't care, but she won't get my vote next time.

Stunned 2
Stunned 2 02/21/14 - 01:32 pm
Yes, It'll be another debt that Taxpayers will be paying, when

Dean gets out of prison. He was a successful businessman that's family has lost so much. His family will have to sue for the injustice and the taxpayers will be paying. The longer he remains unjustly serving time - The more that we'll have to pay in restitution, because of those corrupt Columbia County Politian's.

Stunned 2
Stunned 2 02/21/14 - 01:35 pm
PS: I might write his name in for the next election

(if given the chance). Maybe for Tax Commissioner.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 02/21/14 - 01:46 pm

Readers of this story might also want to read today’s editorial.


sayin it as i see it
sayin it as i see it 02/21/14 - 07:27 pm
Just saw her lawyers response...

Her lawyers response after the col co comm voted to sue her was basically its a shame they are willing to waste taxpayers money on an unnecessary lawsuit... I reckon they feel its bad to "waste" it, but OK to steal it. I personally don't care how much money must be "wasted" to put her in jail and make her pay back the money she has stolen. And her husband needs to go as well, he had to know. Even charles allen can't be that stupid... or can he?

crc 02/21/14 - 09:11 pm

I don't see why a decision has to be made on WHETHER or not charge her? If she broke the law, she broke the law.

NrthAugustaSam 02/21/14 - 11:16 pm
Jail and Throw the rest from the train

She goes to jail without passing go. Ashley Wright loses the next election as does Ron Cross. Her husband is recalled and booted to the curb. Her house is seized and other assets confiscated just as if she had been selling heroine. You have to have penalties or it's profitable to be a thief.

Lee Benedict
Lee Benedict 02/22/14 - 12:39 am
All of them should

step aside. If Ron Cross knew...KNEW back in 2009 that Kay was skimming from the top or not rendering funds to where they were required to be, why did he refuse to act? He was and is the CHAIRMAN, correct? The Tax Commissioner was not being forthright with the people's money, right? All Ron had in his arsenal was to demand cash or he'll run to Sonny Perdue? So what happens? She eventually sends the money and then resumes (allegedly) her game. Any leader, any public servant, would have demanded the money and turned her in. You don't do stuff like that, period.

Let's see now, who was on the Commission in 2009? Ron Cross, Ron Thigpen (executive of a bank with which Columbia County has/had 32 different checking accounts), Trey Allen (was being sued for not paying $80,000+ in rent over 18 months after he took a cash payment of $28,500 from the landlord), Charles Allen, and Scott Dean. Seems like a dysfunctional lot with agendas other than serving the public.

Perhaps if there was a modicum of leadership and integrity within the Board of Commissioners, maybe, just maybe, this could have been stopped. But no. They all had each other's secrets to cover.

And where was the Columbia County media? Reporting an alleged spelling error of a word spelled two ways, and other vindictive missions.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Columbia County voters as a collective group love to keep voting for incumbents regardless of what they have done, how they have voted, what environmental infractions they have allowed to go unchecked, what the debt for the County is, and so on and so forth.

This should have been addressed and seen through eradication back in 2009. But, when integrity and leadership and commitment to public service are absent, it just gained in scope.

Discussionstarter 02/22/14 - 12:59 am
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