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Audit: Kay Allen withheld money from county, other agencies

Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 9:56 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 1:58 PM
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Columbia County Tax Commissioner Kay Allen has failed to remit more than $93,000 in public funds to the county and other authorities as required by state law, according to the findings of an audit of her office.

An audit shows Kay Allen has withheld $93,000 in public funds.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/FILE
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/FILE
An audit shows Kay Allen has withheld $93,000 in public funds.

The audit by Serotta, Maddocks, Evans & Co., which was ordered by the Columbia County Commission in December, examined the tax commissioner’s books and accounts over an 18-month period beginning July 1, 2012.

Its findings include that the tax commissioner was failing to remit money due to the county and other taxing authorities and that Allen was using a tax trust fund to pay credit card expenses before being reimbursed by the county. Allen then repaid the tax funds with the reimbursement.

The draft version of the audit, acquired through a state Open Records request, also confirms that Allen received $57,500 in fees from Grovetown and Harlem in the past two years as payments for tax collection services.

The audit’s findings are the latest wrinkle in a controversy over fees Allen has collected from the cities for more than a decade. Last year, the fees became the subject of an investigation by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and federal authorities, prompting commissioners to call for an audit of all tax commissioner’s accounts and to ask for Gov. Nathan Deal to intervene.

Commissioners contend that the payments from the cities, which Allen keeps as personal compensation, are contrary to 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 then, Allen has collected more than $160,000 in additional compensation from Harlem and Grovetown – 2 percent of each city’s property taxes.

The audit – which is waiting for Allen’s response – found that Allen was also collecting credit card fees and non-sufficient funds check fees that were not being passed on to the county. Those fees totaled more than $39,000 according to the audit.

The audit also found “over/short” accounts for property taxes and motor vehicle taxes amounting to more than $29,000 that had not been paid to the county coffers. Also, more than $25,000 in checking account interest from three accounts had not been returned to the proper taxing authorities, auditors said.

State law states that tax commissioners are required each week to turn over “county taxes including, but not limited to, any interest, penalties, or other amounts due the county which they have collected during the week.”

A call late Tuesday to Allen’s attorney, Douglas Chalmers Jr., was not returned. Chalmers has said Allen broke no law by collecting the fees for Grovetown and Harlem, and that she is willing to work with the county to resolve the situation.

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Little Lamb
49035
Points
Little Lamb 02/18/14 - 10:14 pm
13
0
Contracts

Somewhere, sometime, Kay Allen and the governments of Grovetown and Harlem signed contracts specifying what services Kay Allen was to perform for the cities and how much money they were to pay her. Those contracts had to have signatures on them. Why can't the Chronicle obtain copies of those contracts via an open records request and then publish the results in the paper?

GiantsAllDay
10485
Points
GiantsAllDay 02/18/14 - 10:33 pm
8
1
She won't serve one day in

She won't serve one day in jail. Mark my words.

NrthAugustaSam
504
Points
NrthAugustaSam 02/18/14 - 10:40 pm
11
1
A Farce in Columbia County

This will go nowhere. Ron Cross will say he is frustrated and no more. In reality he is frustrated because he and Thigpen have not found a way to help Charles and Kay Allen get away with this and stay out of the paper and stay out of jail. Their silence reveals their true character. If a good investigator or reporter looked further, they would most likely find more wrongdoers on the CC Commission and in other county offices. Cross is going to run for reelection. Why? Could it be that he wants to continue to hide other crimes? Could it be that he wants to continue to help Kay avoid jail? Yes, this is a farce and Cross, Thigpen, and the rest are showing their true colors by sitting around like bumps on logs. The voters are watching, gentlemen! You will be reminded often when or if you try to remain in office.

corgimom
38385
Points
corgimom 02/18/14 - 10:43 pm
10
1
Nope, I think she's going to

Nope, I think she's going to jail. This is too big to ignore.

I believe that Ron Cross isn't saying a lot right now so as not to jeopardize any prosecution, that he has been instructed not to discuss it as it is pending litigation.

Little Lamb
49035
Points
Little Lamb 02/18/14 - 10:46 pm
12
0
Feds

Federal income tax evasion will be the most likely thing to sting the most (except, perhaps, for her lawyers’ fees).

Butterman
3696
Points
Butterman 02/18/14 - 10:48 pm
9
3
Keep digging that hole Kay
Unpublished

Keep digging that hole Kay and take Ron Cross and RW Allen right down it with you.

justputtin
1527
Points
justputtin 02/18/14 - 11:36 pm
12
0
Restitution only

I'll bet she has to resign and pay restitution. Period. But that's just my guess, what do I know? Term limits have been put in place but are not applicable retroactive. So Ron can run even though the law was passed to prevent someone from staying in office as long as he's trying to stay. Maybe legal but not ethical. There's a lot going on in this govt. but the media has been treading very lightly. Should get interesting come election time.

corgimom
38385
Points
corgimom 02/19/14 - 12:20 am
11
1
If a taxpayer has committed

If a taxpayer has committed fraud, or has not reported at least 25% of their income, the IRS has the right to go back and audit as many years as they want and issue liens, this involves WAY more for her than just $93,000.

She could well wind up in the Federal pen.

glfr8
120
Points
glfr8 02/19/14 - 12:57 am
3
0
Butterman,

what the heck does RW Allen have anything to do with this? I don't see how a private company like that fits in with Ron and Kay… I'm sure Dwight hopes they find more (whistleblower laws would award a portion to him).

WillyWanker
109
Points
WillyWanker 02/19/14 - 01:48 am
12
0
She saw an opportunity,

She saw an opportunity, knowing there was no or little oversight, and took advantage of it. I find it hard to believe that she was the only person in the department running or knowing of this fiddle.

Lee Benedict
1651
Points
Lee Benedict 02/19/14 - 04:24 am
12
0
Pot, kettle. Kettle, pot.

If Kay fired Dwight over $50.00, what are her comments regarding $93,000.00?

And yeah, what does this have to do with RW Allen?

wildman
1222
Points
wildman 02/19/14 - 04:44 am
10
0
Jail

I don't care if she goes to jail or not. Make her pay the money back, remove her from public office, do 10,000 hours of community service and apologize on the steps of the courthouse. Honestly she deserves to go to jail but do we need more in jail or more doing service for their crime (pick up trash, clean the tax commissioners office, etc).

Just my opinion and no one really cares anyway.

JRC2024
10420
Points
JRC2024 02/19/14 - 07:02 am
4
1
Butterman, Mr. Rick Allen and

Butterman, Mr. Rick Allen and Charles Allen may be brothers but Rick has nothing to do with this. YOU ARE WRONG. That is an uncalled for remark and a low blow. It also shows just how much you do not know. Shame on you.

ruleoflaw
226
Points
ruleoflaw 02/19/14 - 07:30 am
5
1
LL, AC has the contracts...

http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/crime-courts/2013-12-14/sheriffs-inqui...
"Grovetown City Administrator Shirley Beasley and Harlem City Manager Jason Rizner supplied copies of contracts signed by Allen for the tax collection service."
Steve Crawford has been provided a number of documents via GORA that he is not showing us, including this preliminary audit result.

As far as the audit goes, failing to remit tax revenue weekly is one of the charges for which she can be removed from office. However, I can't tell from the article if Allen has kept these monies(and how much) or if they are in an office account. I'll bet the improper reimbursement was to avoid late fees on the credit card because she was late in filing for reimbursement from the county.

Chronicle (Steve Crawford)...please share these documents with us so we can see what you are not telling us........

my.voice
5167
Points
my.voice 02/19/14 - 08:02 am
7
1
What puzzles me the most is

What puzzles me the most is not that any wrongdoing took place, but HOW did this take place? We arent dealing with backwoods counties here, but pretty progressive areas. So, how did this happen and where else is it occurring?

Riverman1
93644
Points
Riverman1 02/19/14 - 08:35 am
9
0
Book um, Dano

Public officials have to be held strictly accountable. She took funds from the towns in violation of the 2007 state law. These current revelations would result in employees being cuffed and booked with their faces in The Jail Report. Book um, Dano.

myfather15
56765
Points
myfather15 02/19/14 - 08:36 am
9
0
Will she now have the decency

Will she now have the decency to resign? Of course not!! These are the political leaders we have today!! She would probably rather die than do the right thing and give up her position!! I can not wait to see this unfold!! Hopefully, she ends up right where she belongs......prison!!

Aceman
111
Points
Aceman 02/19/14 - 08:46 am
7
0
Checks are still made out to Kay Allen Tax Commissioner

They probably should stop that before she takes more money. I also notice that a TV report that I saw early on in which she said "why would I give it back, it's my money" conveniently disappeared never to be seen again. Why? That's the kind of sound bite that usually gets played over and over again.

Riverman1
93644
Points
Riverman1 02/19/14 - 08:44 am
10
1
My Voice, Good Questions

My Voice, good questions. I love Columbia County as much as anyone. Countyman tells me that all the time. Columbia County is booming and I believe people tend not to question government when things are good. We became complacent. We elect the same people because we associate them with the growth, good schools and affluent population. Frankly, I’m surprised more legal action hasn’t been taken against Allen so far and Governor Deal hasn’t already removed her from office. This is a battle of a well-connected public official against the law we are all held accountable to. You couldn’t come up with a more powerful public official. She controls our property taxes. Her husband is a Commissioner. Her brother-in-law is a wealthy individual who is the leading Republican candidate for U.S. Representative. Are “WE” going to do the right thing or not?

Marinerman1
5461
Points
Marinerman1 02/19/14 - 08:48 am
6
0
Ironic

It may be ironic that one of these days, our license plates might be made by the Tax Commissioner. You can't make some of this stuff up.

ruleoflaw
226
Points
ruleoflaw 02/19/14 - 09:04 am
0
3
RM, like it or not, the process has to be followed

This draft audit (not final) is the first instance of an accusation that specifically calls for her removal - failure to remit required payment to the State or County.
She responded to Deal's letter a few weeks ago, and I am sure he is waiting on this audit report to be finalised before making a decision. It is interesting that this article does not implicate Allen in personally taking any of the funds, so I assume the extent is that she has them in Tax Office accounts. This lessens the chance of a criminal violation and points to a policy and/or procedural violation. It may result in her removal, but it doesn't look like jail time.
Maybe I am wrong, but if so, I blame Steve Crawford for not providing the documents that would clear this up pretty quickly...

fiscallyresponsible
141
Points
fiscallyresponsible 02/19/14 - 09:05 am
8
0
Shameful

Lock her butt up! She knew exactly what she was doing, money collection and money management is her job!! Ignorance is no defense.

I am so sick of crooked politicians and government officials that I could just spit nails. They are ruining what is left of America!

nocnoc
49130
Points
nocnoc 02/19/14 - 09:37 am
4
0
Not defending her or demonizing her yet.

I see many unanswered questions that are danced around.

Like a break down of Funds per year instead of lumped together for a Maximum Headline Bang.

$57,500 in fees from Grovetown and Harlem in the past two years as payments for tax collection services.

MATH Example:
$58K divided over 2 towns, divided over 2 years ='s
About $14,500 per town per year for handling their bills?

Considering Towns Taxes are treated separately form County Taxes.
Towns would pay their own version of a Tax commissioner fees to collect the fee's.
It Obviously costs the towns more $$$$$$ to hire their own person and staff full time. So in a round about way Ms. Allen may have saved the towns between $50k and $60k each per year in handling the Tax process for them.

It seems that it boils down to, did she violate the law and if so at what point?

Did she her actions cost the county additional time and resources it would NOT have had already had in place?

I waiting for the Headlines & Media Mouths to reduce their interest so we can get to the MEAT of the problem.

QUESTIONS:
Whom or what is driving this investigation in the background?

Is it politically driven given an election cycle?

Has the county gov suffered additional expenses?

Has it cost the Columbia Co. taxpayers an extra $1+?
If so how much?

How much is the investigation costing Taxpayers?

If found innocent should the instigators be required to pay back the taxpayers and shut up?

If found guilty should she pay for the investigation?
And what should she be required to return under the law?

These are just a few question we are faced with.....

bright idea
912
Points
bright idea 02/19/14 - 10:04 am
8
0
Ole Nate

Nathan Deal is caught between a rock and a hard place. He's up for reelection this year and he's terrified that he will alienate the wrong set of Republicans in Columbia County. With this audit he should have enough to boot this crooked politician right now and let the chips fall where they may in the election.

grinder48
2054
Points
grinder48 02/19/14 - 10:15 am
0
0
Restitution
Unpublished

She needs to go to prision. I'll guarantee she and hubby have significant assets and those should be seized to cover the cost of the embezzled funds plus interest plus penalities ...

Riverman1
93644
Points
Riverman1 02/19/14 - 10:40 am
1
0
RuleofLaw

RuleofLaw, I'm happy with the way the facts are coming out. I'm NOW confident in the outcome. I think it's time for the Allen camp to start making other plans. Time to sit back.

Sean Moores
1061
Points
Sean Moores 02/19/14 - 11:01 am
4
0
More supporting material

Some of you have been asking to see the source material. Columbia County News Times editor Steve Crawford just sent me Kay Allen's Grovetown and Harlem contracts as well as a couple of handwritten invoices that she sent for payment. They are near the top of the page under her photo.

ruleoflaw
226
Points
ruleoflaw 02/19/14 - 11:40 am
3
1
Thanks Sean

So it is clear that the contracts, despite what Harlem and Grovetown mayors say, are not with the County Commission and are certainly with Allen. The Grovetown contract was established in 2002 (expired...extensions??), and the Harlem one in late 2012, which should have not been legal (based on current interpretation of the law). So the money in question may be isolated to Harlem's payments from 2013.

If there have been no extensions to the Grovetown contract, then there is no current contract. In that case, I have no idea who will be at fault.

Truth Matters
8084
Points
Truth Matters 02/19/14 - 11:42 am
2
5
Now we know that the FBI has

Now we know that the FBI has not been targeting conservatives. Just think if they had, Kay Allen's shenanigans would have been exposed a long time ago.

Truth Matters
8084
Points
Truth Matters 02/19/14 - 11:43 am
2
5
Mark that the IRS, not FBI.

Mark that the IRS, not FBI.

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