Columbia County OKs audit of tax commissioner

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The Columbia County Commission voted Tuesday night to authorize a “complete and full audit” of Tax Commissioner Kay Allen’s office.

Allen
Allen

Commission Chairman Ron Cross said the ongoing investigation by the FBI and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office into Allen’s agreements for additional compensation from Grovetown and Harlem was “an unfortunate situation,” but something the commission needed to address.

The vote to authorize the audit was unanimous except for Commissioner Charles Allen, who recused himself because he is married to the tax commissioner.

Commissioner Trey Allen said the audit should go beyond the scope of regular audits of county departments – including the Tax Commissioner’s Office – which already occur.

County Administrator Scott Johnson said he will select one of the accounting firms the county already uses to perform the audit.

“I don’t anticipate going to a third-party firm,” Johnson said. “I just need to determine who has the most expertise in this area.”

The controversy over Allen’s contracts with the cities has been percolating behind the scenes since October, when officials became aware that sheriff’s investigators were working with the FBI to look into allegations against the tax commissioner.

Over the past two decades, Allen has collected thousands in additional pay for providing tax services to the two municipalities. In the past five years, those payments have meant more than $160,000 in direct compensation for Allen.

Grovetown and Harlem officials have said they were under the impression the payments for services were going to the county budget, not to Allen’s pocketbook.

“We thought we were paying the county,” said Grovetown Mayor George James III, who attended Tuesday’s meeting.

James said that as far as he knew, Grovetown never filed any Internal Revenue Service documents or supplied Allen with any IRS forms that would customarily be associated with income payments.

The city’s most recent check for tax collection services, dated Oct. 5 for $29,000, was made out to “Columbia County Tax Commission Attention: Kay Allen.”

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.

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 had passed the 50,000-parcel threshold by 2009, officials said.

State Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, who wrote the 2007 legislation, said the intent was to stop tax commissioners from benefitting from deals such as the agreements made by Allen.

“It’s improper,” Willard said. “That is using (county resources) to benefit the tax commissioner personally.”

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Little Lamb
48049
Points
Little Lamb 12/17/13 - 06:41 pm
9
0
Cities

Hopefully, the cities of Grovetown and Harlem will co-operate.

If no one prepared 1099 forms for Kay Allen, the IRS will be interested.

jdsgirl63
3159
Points
jdsgirl63 12/17/13 - 07:58 pm
16
0
After listening....

After listening to the recorded phone call between Mrs. Allen and Mr. Johnson, one would think she ought to be relieved of her position due to abuse of power. Ordering an employee to 'walk around Kroger' for an 8 hour period is beyond bizarre. In addition to the Grovetown/Harlem contracts, her actions toward Mr. Johnson should be looked into.

Lee Benedict
1649
Points
Lee Benedict 12/17/13 - 09:57 pm
8
3
While you're at it,

why not take a look into the lawsuit filed against District 2 Commissioner Trey Allen a few years ago? He allegedly took $20,000+ cash from the landlord of his business' then-location and allegedly withheld/refused to pay rent of $4,500/month for close to a year and a half. Anyone familiar with real estate knows that landlords do not allow tenants to remain for 1-2 months without paying rent, let alone 18 months or thereabouts...unless, unless what? This kind of brings the Marshall Square "vote" and the Magnolia Trace "vote" into question.

A more pressing question would be, Kay Allen has a contract (whether it's kosher or not is being investigated), as did Trey Allen. She apparently lived up to her end of the agreement whereas he did not. She is being investigated, his lawsuit was censored by local media, or, somehow missed by local media. When local media was made aware of the lawsuit against a commissioner, it did nothing. Why the opposite treatment for these two elected officials?

There may very well be a very valid, reasonable explanation for Trey Allen's lawsuit and the media blackout that followed, and I hope that there is. I have a copy of the suit and there is record of my payment of $21.50 (I think) last year for a copy of the suit. I have more than 100 witnesses (3-4 of whom being elected officeholders) who were present last year when I mentioned the suit in front of media personnel.

That aside, if Harlem and Grovetown, via the consent of the governed, want to acquire Kay Allen's services, then they should be permitted to do so provided that it's above table, 1099s were issued yearly...Harlem and Grovetown should be permitted also to hire tax collectors, staffs, equipment, software...to do what they paid Allen to do.

If what officials quoted in another story are true, that they thought the payments were going to Columbia County through Allen, and not to her personally, then there are some problems. If she put Columbia County employees to work for her side deal, then there are some problems. We do not, from what I have read, have close to enough evidence to know one way or the other, and that being the case, owe it to Kay Allen to presume her innocent until otherwise is proven. BTW, wasn't a former Grovetown official convicted of some $$$ stuff?

Riverman1
90855
Points
Riverman1 12/17/13 - 10:23 pm
12
0
Not The Law

Lee said, "That aside, if Harlem and Grovetown, via the consent of the governed, want to acquire Kay Allen's services, then they should be permitted to do so provided that it's above table, 1099s were issued yearly..."

That's not the law as of 2007 that was specifically written to prevent tax commissioners from charging fees for that on the side. The towns can contract with the county to do the task, but not with Kay Allen. Any fees the towns pay have to go to the county. The county can pay Allen extra if they want, but why would they? She's not the one doing the work.

John Locke
345
Points
John Locke 12/17/13 - 10:23 pm
8
0
Who will be conducting the audit??

OK, this is starting to be a bigger deal that first thought. Not only is there the issue of contracts for collecting taxes, but there now appears to be abuse of employees. From other past stories and reports, office expenses should be looked at as well (ie taxpayer paid coffee, office decorations, etc). I'll never forget getting in the mail with my car tag renewal a dollar bill looking coupon called "Kay Bucks" or something like that for use at local businesses for a discount. These were not cheap looking coupons, but glossy, high quality printing. Who decided to use my tax money for that?? Of all the things though, the abuse of employees is the worst and to hear the man who was fired talk, she treated him like a slave. There is a power issue here and those who live in CC know, the powerbrokers will take down anyone messing with their fiefdom. CC is dirty, dirty, dirty - underneath the surface.

Little Lamb
48049
Points
Little Lamb 12/17/13 - 10:46 pm
10
0
1099

From the story:

“We thought we were paying the county,” said Grovetown Mayor George James III, who attended Tuesday’s meeting. James said as far as he knew, Grovetown never filed any Internal Revenue Service documents or supplied Allen with any IRS forms that would customarily be associated with income payments.

That's fair enough. I can easily see why the cities might think that.

But will the IRS be as charitable as James?

Income tax evasion is not nice.

Little Lamb
48049
Points
Little Lamb 12/17/13 - 10:47 pm
7
1
Joint

If Charles and Kay Allen filed joint returns, look out!

scoopdedoop64
2488
Points
scoopdedoop64 12/17/13 - 10:53 pm
8
2
Surprise, Surprise!....Not!

Corruption is everywhere! The only difference is between those who get caught and those who don't. Until the hearts of people in this country decide to let God have control there is no reason to expect much different.

just an opinion
2840
Points
just an opinion 12/17/13 - 11:03 pm
14
2
Someone post the audio

Mrs. Allen, for starters resign tomorrow. Second, hire a lawyer, maybe that Pete guy. He has a track record with high profile folks. (Most are in jail though). And lastly before you "go away" call Mr. Dwight Johnson and apologize for making a fool out of him and making him walk around Kroger for 8 hours on county time. You should be ashamed of yourself.

scoopdedoop64
2488
Points
scoopdedoop64 12/17/13 - 11:10 pm
12
1
@ Just An Opinion

You are so very right! Yeah, hire Pete Theodocian! That way we know she will go to jail. I know its bad she took money, that I can understand even though its wrong. But to treat people like she has, well, that's just mean!

Riverman1
90855
Points
Riverman1 12/18/13 - 12:17 am
10
1
Tax Commissioner gone wild

Tax Commissioner gone wild. We need a video.

D D DOG
101
Points
D D DOG 12/18/13 - 02:16 am
9
1
Tighten my belt for K.A.
Unpublished

How many fellow taxpayers in CC have experienced rediculous property tax increases. Mine increased approx. 25k in the last three years. I was told it was because home values increased. I have contacted seasoned real estate agents/estimaters to only be told that home values not only didn't increase but actually deacreased. Wonder if some of the increase in tax went into special accounts? Wonder if this happened Allen would think she is entitled to these funds also. I am aGrovetown resident and I may have been cheated out of many $$$$$ Please investigate this train wreck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Stunned 2
5881
Points
Stunned 2 12/18/13 - 06:00 am
11
1
Bullies & people that abuse other people: School, at Work, Home

Bullies & people that abuse other people:( at School, at work, in the home) - Are trying to cover up --for their own inadequacies and incompetence, mistakes, laziness, or illegal activity, by diverting attention onto another person (their chosen victim) through meanness, abuse and their disruptive behavior -usually someone that they are jealous of, or see as competition. This is how they operate. They desire respect, but it is illusive to them by the people they desire it from. Their follows are others with low self-confidence or people that are in the dark and don't know what is going on. (like the taxpayers of Columbia County). Bullies at work deflate office efficiencies and tear down order by creating a hostile work environment through harassment. Bulling is behind every harassment charge. Every employer should seriously consider an office bully a threat to their economic health. The Bully is less productive than the employees that they bully, because their focus is not on the job. The bully should be sent to counseling and the employer should review/audit the bullies' work.

myfather15
55844
Points
myfather15 12/18/13 - 06:05 am
8
2
"James said that as far as he

"James said that as far as he knew, Grovetown never filed any Internal Revenue Service documents or supplied Allen with any IRS forms that would customarily be associated with income payments."

Well Mrs. Allen; looks very possible you could be taking Charles Walker's spot. Exit Charles Walker, enter Kay Allen!! You better hope you paid taxes on all that profit!!

Stunned 2
5881
Points
Stunned 2 12/18/13 - 07:02 am
8
1
She should be on Administrative leave during the investigation

When an active investigation into wrong doing by an employee or elected official is started, the person should be put on administrative leave. The employee should not have access to any documents or computer files during the investigation. The county should actively be considering their options for the possibility of severe action against the employee being investigated. Columbia County officials should do their best to protect the public funds.

truthfinder
123
Points
truthfinder 12/18/13 - 08:00 am
2
10
"Working" at Kroger?

Really, what kind of person with any level of intelligence would walk around Kroger for 8 hours just because some woman told him to? This is so ridiculous. This guy has been planning this for MONTHS. It's so weird that he happened to record a conversation like this. Do we even know it's Kay Allen on the tape?

Stunned 2
5881
Points
Stunned 2 12/18/13 - 08:30 am
9
1
What kind of manager would force an employee to walk around Krog

What kind of manager would force an employee to walk around Kroger?
Columbia County officials need to justify to their tax-paying public why one of their managers sent an employee – while on the taxpayer payroll- to Kroger to walk around for 8 hours. Though all businesses, large and small, have internal conflicts and disputes, I would think that Kroger generates a large amount of tax income for Columbia County. To have an employee from the tax office walking around one of our largest retailers with no purpose – could be perceived as harassment by the retailer. It is definitely an abuse, by the manager, of county funds. We are paying him because the manager has suffered a meltdown. This should have been investigated by Columbia County officials when it happened.

Marinerman1
5320
Points
Marinerman1 12/18/13 - 08:59 am
3
1
Paper Trail ??

If the cities of Grovetown and Harlem filled out their checks per the article, then there HAS to be paper trail of Ms. Allen moving the money from the County account, into her own personal account. I wonder how much discussion there has been between the Allens, over the past few years.

itsanotherday1
47070
Points
itsanotherday1 12/18/13 - 09:05 am
8
1
I love it when the high and

I love it when the high and mighty, connected people get chopped off at the knees.
I thought it was improper for her husband to be a commissioner, and did not vote for him. Political incest.

If Mrs. Allen had gotten out in front of this at the beginning and said "People of Columbia County, I apologize. I was not aware that I could no longer enter into these kinds of agreements, so TOMORROW I am depositing a check for $xxxxxx.xx into the county treasury to repay all of the money I collected with interest." , I might have a little respect.

But nooooo, she has to be arrogant (typical of entrenched power) and say "it is MINE! I earned it!"

Go away Kay, we don't need the corruption.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 12/18/13 - 09:05 am
8
1
If I'm correct, Dwight is the

If I'm correct, Dwight is the taller gent and has been in that office forever and a day. i don't buy the story of him stealing 50 bucks. Just don't think it makes a lick of sense. Now ask me if I think there is some creative accounting going on with regard to the "side-jobs" our tax-commishie has been dabbling in and I would withhold comment until later.

What I can do is vent something that bugs me about that office's practices. If I pay for a MV tag that will last one year, why do I have to come in before the end of that year to renew it for the next year to avoid a late fee? I'd prefer to use out the entire year's worth of tag and then on the first day of the new year, renew it. I can do that certainly, but the penalty for being late seems off-kilter. Why would I be late if it's for a whole year and I'm coming in on Day 1 of the proceeding year to renew my tag? A tad petty, but now (as the Dude says), certain things have come to light. Mebbe there is some greed motivating those late charges that I felt were not warranted, as I was not late but actually and exactly ON TIME. Reap it!

Riverman1
90855
Points
Riverman1 12/18/13 - 10:04 am
9
0
Employees Should Safeguard Info

The employees at the tax office should diligently safeguard the files before this audit. I believe they will be very helpful with an audit given Allen's dictatorial, dominating behavior with them.

According to Willow's post the special personal bills to the towns were sent in special envelopes by her and returned in special envelopes that no one opened but her. I suspect those payments went straight to her bank account.

John Locke
345
Points
John Locke 12/18/13 - 10:06 am
8
0
A little here, a little there

As many of the posters have offered, there are many little things that themselves are not that big, but they are adding up. A little charge here, a little expense there, property assessments out of kilter (I too questioned this when my property went up 15% in one year), so my concern is where are the records? Who is safeguarding them for an investigation? does allen still have access to her office? her computer? The Sheriff's Office needs to visit the Tax Office ASAP to safeguard against shredding.

seenitB4
93942
Points
seenitB4 12/18/13 - 10:22 am
4
3
Good luck with that

Fulton county hasn't removed anyone...

Earlier this year, Ferdinand’s only response to questions about his personal profits and the potential conflict was to cite the state law that the Fulton County Attorney’s Office said justified the payments. That law dates back at least to the Great Depression, when most tax commissioners earned their pay through fees.

Ferdinand said of his motives in a July email, “My intent is to make sure taxes are paid as quickly as possible.”

While Darnell’s proposal would cut Ferdinand’s pay by tens of thousands of dollars per year, he would still earn roughly $350,000 per year. That’s more than twice as much as Gov. Nathan Deal and nearing the pay of Presi dent Barack Obama.

Most of his pay comes from a separate fee he pockets, the $1 per parcel he charges to Atlanta, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs for adding their city tax bills to county tax bills.

Riverman1
90855
Points
Riverman1 12/18/13 - 04:55 pm
4
0
Perfect Example

SeenIt, THAT's the perfect example of the attitude some of the Tax Commisioners have. While most in the state stopped the practice when the law changed, the arrogant ones believe they are above the law and continued. What do they not get? The law is the law.

Ferdinand claims he has a contract that predates the 2007 law so he will continue collecting the fees from the towns. That contract should have been changed soon as the law changed. Does he think he can continue the practice forever when the law says it can't be done? With that logic it's a wonder people don't try to justify owning slaves because their families did it before the law changed.

Aceman
111
Points
Aceman 12/18/13 - 10:56 am
4
0
The Tax Assessors Office does the assessments

Not the Tax Commissioners Office. They are kept separate from each other to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Employees of the Assessors Office did the assessments and were paid by the Assessors Office as part of their daily work schedule. So yes, county employees were used to do this work and the Tax Commissioner was paid for the work done. The labor used in this case was not even paid out of the Tax Commissioners budget. Sweet deal if you can get it!!

GuyGene
1433
Points
GuyGene 12/18/13 - 11:11 am
6
0
Incompetency...

I also think there must be incompetency in our tax office. I'm very concerned about this taking money from Grovetown and Harlem, which seems to be illegal, but I am also very concerned that there has been incompetency. By that I mean, WHY would my Columbia County property tax increase by over 50% in one year?? Our property tax increased from $800 to over $1,200 in one year! I asked about it, and the only answer was, "well, have you seen what places are selling for?" blah, blah, blah… This was about 6 years ago. Values are below what they were then, but taxes are still the same.

My answer was, I can understand incremental increases as values increase, but NOT more than 50% in one year!! To me, that means somebody in our tax office has not been doing their job. I'd be fired if I was no more competent that to have a 50% change in assessments in one year, when I should be keeping up with trends!

Whew, to me, the buck should start/stop at the head of the office. So, I'm saying, yes, this Gorvetown/Harlem payment thing is bad, but there has been incompetence for MANY years. We need some new people who really know how to do the job in our tax office. Oh, and good old honesty would help too.

Riverman1
90855
Points
Riverman1 12/18/13 - 11:18 am
7
0
Let's Think About the "Contracts"

Keep in mind if the town payments had been going to the county treasury as was intended, we would have all benefited.

Here’s what I’m thinking about the contracts with the towns. Both towns have said they thought they were paying Columbia County as the law requires. Everyone in authority in Columbia County thought the county was being paid, sans one Commissioner, heh, heh, heh.

We know Allen made a contract with Harlem in 2012. That would be in violation of the law since the law had changed years ago. It could be she also had other contracts with them after the 2007 law change which would also be illegal. It could also be she didn’t have contracts post 2007 and was simply billing them personally.

We don’t know much about the Grovetown “contract.” It could be they didn’t even have a legitimate one. It could be they were simply sending the checks to Kay Allen: Columbia County Tax Commissioner thinking the money went to the county. Remember both towns said they thought they were paying the county and not Allen personally.

Reading how she had special envelopes that the regular employees didn’t deal with when she billed the counties and had the envelopes given to her personally when they were returned with payments, this thing was well thought out. It’s obvious it was a deceptive and illegal practice with laws being broken.

harley_52
25117
Points
harley_52 12/18/13 - 11:19 am
4
5
I Didn't Think....

....this sort of thing happened in Columbia County.

Is Mrs. Allen a Richmond County transplant?

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 12/18/13 - 11:53 am
5
0
ARC has been doing it longer.

ARC has been doing it longer. CC just got better at hiding it.

zazzy43
45
Points
zazzy43 12/18/13 - 11:54 am
3
1
It sounds like the lawsuit

It sounds like the lawsuit against Trey Allen that Mr. Benedict is speaking of involves the personal business of Trey Allen, not his actions as a commissioner. That's probably why it has not been covered by the media. The accusations against Kay Allen stem from her county employment. Thus, the media deems this story newsworthy. If you dislike Trey Allen so much then run against him. However, you haven't had very much success in your past elections so you might not want to go that route. Just saying!

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