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Columbia County officials might try to end tax commissioner's city contracts

Monday, Dec. 16, 2013 8:50 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 12:56 AM
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Columbia County officials are studying options to end controversial contracts that compensate Tax Commissioner Kay Allen for collecting property taxes for the cities of Harlem and Grovetown.

County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said it is possible the commission will take up the issue at tonight’s meeting in Evans.

“I think the first thing we need to do is to make any agreements between the tax commissioner and Grovetown and Harlem null and void,” he said Monday. “It is something that has got to be addressed.”

Cross said he believes the commission has the authority to end the tax commissioner’s agreements, but an attorney will likely have to weigh in on the issue. County Administrator Scott Johnson said he and other officials were working on a possible action, but wasn’t certain that it could be taken up as soon as Tuesday.

Over the past two decades, Allen has collected thousands in additional pay for providing tax services to the two municipalities. Current agreements with the cities give her a 2 percent cut of all property taxes billed for the cities. In the past five years, those payments have totaled more than $160,000 in direct compensation for Allen.

The payments came under the scrutiny of law enforcement after authorities were made aware of them in October. Columbia County sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris said Monday the sheriff’s office has been conducting a “joint investigation” with the FBI since that time.

Grovetown and Harlem officials said Monday they were under the impression the payments for services were going to the county budget, not to Allen’s personal bank account.

“We all assumed that the contract was in compliance with the county,” said Grovetown Councilman Dennis Trudeau, who signed a 2002 contract with Allen when he was mayor. “I thought that maybe she got a little percentage and the rest went to county.”

A $29,000 check from the city of Grovetown for tax collection services was made out to “Columbia County Tax Commission Attention: Kay Allen.”

Harlem Mayor Bobby Culpepper agreed that he thought the 2012 contract that he signed provided payment to the county for tax collection.

“I never would have thought any other way,” Culpepper said. “My impression would have been naturally that it was going to the county.”

Harlem paid Allen $7,000 in 2013 for tax collection. Handwritten invoices sent to both cities in September from Allen are on the tax commissioner’s official letterhead.

Allen has acknowledged that she collects additional compensation and maintains that state law allows her to do so. Other tax commissioners around the state also have such agreements, but not all. Richmond County Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick said he does not get extra compensation for collecting taxes for Hephzibah and Blythe.

State law, which was enacted in 2007, allows such direct compensation for tax commissioners, 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 bypassed the 50,000-parcel threshold more than four years ago, officials said.

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dec0608
164
Points
dec0608 12/16/13 - 10:44 pm
10
0
FBI

Glad to see that the FBI is in on this investigation !!!

Riverman1
79277
Points
Riverman1 12/17/13 - 07:36 am
18
1
Pretty Obvious To All Now

As I said before Grovetown and Harlem thought they were paying Columbia County for the service. Columbia County didn't know anything about the payments because Kay Allen was keeping all the money after she billed the towns under official letterheads. The 2007 state law clearly makes these arrangements illegal. If Columbia County passed the 50,000 parcel size 4 years ago, then every payment after then was illegal. In addition she was having Columbia County employees using county resources do this work while she was the only one getting anything. She is not a dumb person. She knew all this was breaking the law.

sugarbutton
612
Points
sugarbutton 12/17/13 - 05:57 am
8
0
iaaffg
1542
Points
iaaffg 12/17/13 - 06:36 am
13
0
Let me tell you how it will

Let me tell you how it will be
There's one for you, nineteen for me
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman

Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don't take it all
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah I'm the taxman

If you drive a car, I'll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I'll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet.

Don't ask me what I want it for
If you don't want to pay some more
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman
Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman
And you're working for no one but me.

KSL
121384
Points
KSL 12/17/13 - 07:15 am
14
2
Using employees for personal

Using employees for personal gain is stealing.

justputtin
1384
Points
justputtin 12/17/13 - 07:43 am
7
1
Uh oh

Somebody's in trouble.......

rebellious
20165
Points
rebellious 12/17/13 - 08:49 am
5
5
Have we considered

the bargain Harlem and Grovetown have benefited from? Were these two cities to hire personnel, acquire computer and software systems, pay postage for billing, require the mechanism's for delinquency proceedings, would they have been able to do so at the cost of $7,000 and $29,000. And achieve an effective spendable net tax proceeds of 98%? I think not. They are protesting now simply because of the negative slant of the article and the revelation of the 2% recipient.

And while the propriety of Allen accepting the payments may be questionable, we are a nation of laws. If I interpret the article accurately, proceeds received by Allen prior to Columbia County exceeding the 50,000 parcel threshold are legal and lawful. So the question becomes "who is responsible for catching that growth milestone?".

Just because there is blood in the water doesn't mean we have to go on a feeding frenzy! Make right the mistake, move on, keep the baby and throw out the dirty bathwater. This may be what Mr. Cross is trying to do, unless political winds and hidden agenda's force the shredding of another public servant. Good Ole Columbia County politics, gotta love it!

Riverman1
79277
Points
Riverman1 12/17/13 - 09:13 am
9
0
If Anyone Knew The 50,000 Parcel Had Been Passed, It Was Allen

Rebel, the point is Harlem and Grovetown could have paid the same thing or even less to Columbia County as they thought they were doing for the same service. Allen could have been given something possibly if the County Commission had so deemed or it could be they would rule using their facilities and personnel didn't justify any payment to her. But that's the whole point. The law says the county should be the one being paid and paying the Tax Commssioner for additional duties if they desire.

So the law only went into effect after the 50,000 parcels were exceeded, but that was years ago. I have no doubt she knew that limit had been exceeded since she is the Tax Commissioner, after all. The money should be returned to Columbia County, plus legal action should address the law breaking.

If the best defense of her is ignorance of the fact the county had passed the 50,000 limit when she is the Tax Commissioner I don't think she will fare well in court.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 12/17/13 - 09:18 am
6
0
I don't think ignorance can

I don't think ignorance can be used as a defense but that's just me.

x2 rman

seenitB4
81253
Points
seenitB4 12/17/13 - 09:17 am
3
6
Rebel is right imo

There might be blood in the water but he does make a good point..Think about it before you kill the shark.
This does happen in other towns-counties.

Little Lamb
43827
Points
Little Lamb 12/17/13 - 09:34 am
4
3
District Attorney

The District Attorney has a clear case of perjury out in the open for all to see. Scott Dean's daughter has stated publicly that she lied on the witness stand, resulting in a conviction and excessive prison sentence.

But the District Attorney decides not to make a case.

Likewise, because of the political nature of our judicial circuit, we are not likely to see a case made in the matter discussed up above.

In the case of Scott Dean we have "no harm, serious foul."

In the case of Kay Allen we have "serious harm, no foul."

Little Lamb
43827
Points
Little Lamb 12/17/13 - 09:20 am
2
2
Premature

Of course, if the District Attorney indicts Allen, then I will be partially wrong in my assessment above.

Riverman1
79277
Points
Riverman1 12/17/13 - 09:21 am
5
2
Sure it happens in some other

Sure it happens in some other counties, but that doesn't make it right. The law is the law. Goodness, the Richmond County Tax Commissioner doesn't even do it.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 12/17/13 - 09:22 am
5
0
I'd pay the money back first

I'd pay the money back first and foremost if it was obtained wrongfully. Then we go about the motions of who's at fault, how to correct, and how to apply the medicine. Would look better in the end if nothing else.

Riverman1
79277
Points
Riverman1 12/17/13 - 09:32 am
10
0
David, the problem is, this

David, the problem is, this is her attitude: “Absolutely, that is my money. I have a contract with them."

Little Lamb
43827
Points
Little Lamb 12/17/13 - 09:33 am
6
1
No Contrition

Exactly, RM.

cheeringonthedawgs
108
Points
cheeringonthedawgs 12/17/13 - 09:55 am
8
0
The problem is greed

The 2% should have been used to hire another worker or two to handle the Harlem and Grovetown taxes. I don't believe the law meant for "The Tax Commissioner" herself to keep the money personally. This was a blatant act of misuse of county resources and should be dealt with accordingly. If anyone else had done this there would be no question. They would be fired, charged and fined. Especially with her attitude "It's my money". No it's the tax payers money. She is the highest paid employee in the county , if I'm not mistaken, and now she received a hefty bonus. If the political theater plays the way it usually does, there will be no penalty to her wrong doing. But we can vote her out.

Red Headed Step Child
4006
Points
Red Headed Step Child 12/17/13 - 09:59 am
5
0
I don't profess to know how

I don't profess to know how the Tax Commissioner's compensation is formulated. If she gets a percentage of all the collected taxes in the county as a "bonus" on top of a salary, then so be it. GTown and Harlem are in Columbia County, so that would make sense. If she is a straight salary officer, then I don't get why a Tax Commissioner would be eligible to receive a percentage of anything. After all, it's not like she is personally collecting or processing anything.

I guess we'll just have to wait for the "rest of the story"....

SON of Scoob
434
Points
SON of Scoob 12/17/13 - 10:00 am
7
0
“Absolutely, that is my money. I have a contract with them."

I don't understand the rationale behind the above statement. She used Columbia County employees and resources and billed on Columbia County stationary. Doesn't that mean the money belongs to Columbia County.

Marinerman1
4277
Points
Marinerman1 12/17/13 - 10:04 am
4
0
Common Sense

If Kay Allen did ALL of the work, then she should keep the money. The problem is that we all know that she had other County employees do the actual work. How did they get paid? It surely should've been overtime, since we know that they all had more than they could say grace over. If County employees benefitted from the contract, then okay, great. If other County employees did not benefit, then Ms.Allen needs to pay the piper.

soapy_725
43553
Points
soapy_725 12/17/13 - 10:26 am
0
0
How many additional $$ went via checks to "Kay Allen CC Tax Com"
Unpublished

How many additional $$ went via checks to "Kay Allen CC Tax Com"

soapy_725
43553
Points
soapy_725 12/17/13 - 10:28 am
0
0
What do CC taxpayer put on their checks? To: Kay Allen CC?
Unpublished

What do CC taxpayer put on their checks? To: Kay Allen CC?

soapy_725
43553
Points
soapy_725 12/17/13 - 10:29 am
1
0
Is she planning retirement or building a political war chest? Or
Unpublished

a political war chest for her nepotistic family?

soapy_725
43553
Points
soapy_725 12/17/13 - 10:30 am
0
0
Nothing will be done to Kay Allen. To much political clout!!!!!
Unpublished

Nothing will be done to Kay Allen. To much political clout!!!!!

ruleoflaw
209
Points
ruleoflaw 12/17/13 - 12:08 pm
3
1
Commission can't end the contract

If there is a valid contract, the only way it is ended is with either of the parties ending it per the terms of the contract. The Columbia County Commission has no standing in the contract. They may offer that the contract is not valid due to GA law and when the contract was signed, but that is a leagl issue. The commission could move to have Allen removed from office, but they can't terminate the contract.
Also, Harlem and Grovetown should have known the law changed and also should have known they were contracting directly with Allen. They are responsible for this as well.
As I have said before, I think this was at worst an oversight or misinterpretation of the law that has now been brought forth. Once resolved, the county can contract directly with Harlem and Grovetown. But I would bet dollars to doughnuts that the price goes up beyond 2%.
It is possible Harlem and Grovetown turned a blind eye to the deal knowing they were getting the good end...
Complete supposition on the last points, but it will be fun to watch the dust settle on this one.

fiscallyresponsible
115
Points
fiscallyresponsible 12/17/13 - 12:11 pm
6
0
Power corrupts people.

Power corrupts people. Every. Single. Time.

She should be fired. She should have to pay back the money plus interest to the county. She should be tried in a court of law for theft.

Ignorance is no excuse. You can't tell the police officer you were doing 75 mph in a 35 mph zone because you didn't see the sign.

justthefacts
20365
Points
justthefacts 12/17/13 - 12:26 pm
1
0
Now you tell me..

"You can't tell the police officer you were doing 75 mph in a 35 mph zone because you didn't see the sign."

Sweet son
9682
Points
Sweet son 12/17/13 - 12:38 pm
2
0
The whole situation evolved from the firing of the employee who

missed 12 weeks on medical leave. Sad that he lost his job and glad that he might have mentioned this questionable practice to law enforcement or others in a position to 'make it right.'

Yes, good 'ole Columbia County is fraught with 'good 'ole boy politics.'

Let the fireworks continue!

LillyfromtheMills
12576
Points
LillyfromtheMills 12/17/13 - 12:38 pm
2
0
Think

She shared the money with her fellow employees? Hope so.

SON of Scoob
434
Points
SON of Scoob 12/17/13 - 12:43 pm
1
0
Expired Tags

I have a neighbor with three cars that have expired tags. Code enforcement was made aware and was told by Charles Allen to lay off. Kay Allen was then notified of this and has taken no action.

Too busy with her illegal side business, I guess.

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