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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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tl-bro
155
Points
tl-bro 02/19/14 - 12:48 pm
1
0
Sean -

Sean - can you post a PDF of the actual audit report for us to view? It must be a public document if you received it.

GiantsAllDay
9593
Points
GiantsAllDay 02/19/14 - 12:49 pm
6
0
There's at least one thing we

There's at least one thing we know for sure. She didn't spend any of her ill gotten gains on Linda Schrenko's doctor.

Sean Moores
385
Points
Sean Moores 02/19/14 - 01:06 pm
1
0
@ tl-bro

I'll email Steve to see if he has it.

D D DOG
97
Points
D D DOG 02/19/14 - 01:13 pm
0
0
Kay,Charlie, R.W.
Unpublished

How can anyone believe that RW is not calling the shots concerning the Kay Allen crime. Open your eyes and ears. Johnson is guilty of nothing but doing the right thing. Think of the extra tax dollars C.C. will have now that the thief has been exposed. I just hope justice prevails. We have waited almost seven months now and still no arrest. Governer Deal, Ashley Wright, please do your job.

Avvocato
7
Points
Avvocato 02/19/14 - 01:58 pm
3
0
I'm curious whether the

I'm curious whether the Harlem/Grovetown contracts were reviewed by the County Attorney, Doug Batchelor. Mr. Batchelor recently resigned as County Attorney after a long tenure with absolutely no mention (that I saw) from the Chronicle. Are the two events related? Mr. Batchelor's age aside, they seem awfully close to be coincidental. The family/business connections between the sons of Mr. Batchelor and Ms. Allen are known to many. Scott, how about an open records request to see if the Tax Commissioner's Office sent the Harlem/Grovetown contracts to Mr. Batchelor to review?

Sean Moores
385
Points
Sean Moores 02/19/14 - 02:17 pm
1
0
@ tl-bro

Steve doesn't have that in PDF form.

Riverman1
84066
Points
Riverman1 02/19/14 - 02:42 pm
4
0
The Harlem and Grovetown

The Harlem and Grovetown Mayors, both said, they were writing the checks to Kay Allen in the role of County Tax Commissioner. I can remember not too many years ago we were all told to simply make out our tax payments to Kay Allen without any mention of "Tax Commissioner." But the overriding fact is it was illegal for a tax commissioner to accept payments from towns in the county once the parcel size exceeded 50,000. There is simply so much wrong doing here it boggles the mind. Kay Allen says the money is hers and she won't give the money back. Are we going to let that stand? Are we going to allow the lawbreaking to stand with punishment?

Sean Moores
385
Points
Sean Moores 02/19/14 - 02:59 pm
0
0
Tax Commissioner Audit

Steve Crawford just sent me a PDF of the Tax Commissioner Audit. It is posted at the top of the page under her photo.

ruleoflaw
209
Points
ruleoflaw 02/19/14 - 03:37 pm
1
0
In the role of County tax Commissioner

RM,
Whether the contract is witht he county or with Allen, the payments would always be to Allen in her role as the TC. You can't pay anyone else to do it by law.

As I am rwading through the audit, it intersting that while Allen charges Grovetown and Harlem 2% to collect real and personal property tax, the County charges them 4.5% and 5.5% respectively for Allen to collect other taxes. I assume these agreements are under contract with the County. This may explain that while Grovetown and Harlem may complain they thought the County was getting the money, they are not in any hurry to end these agreements and contract directly with the County.

Very good read so far...thanks to Sean for helping get this online...

ruleoflaw
209
Points
ruleoflaw 02/19/14 - 04:27 pm
0
0
Overall, not much definitive info in the audit.

The biggest revelations are the fees and interest that were not remitted to the County. I think the interest and overage probably should be remitted (subject to GA law), but the fees, if not specifically addressed by the GA Code, would be at the disposal of the Tax Commissioner's office. Fees are generally kept in the local departments for these things.

This audit was prepared based on instructions and direction from the County Commission. The audit firm did not consult with GA law, only based on instruction and general accounting practices. That said, their findings don't mean there is wrongdoing, only deviation from generally accepted accounting practices.

countyman
20129
Points
countyman 02/19/14 - 05:22 pm
1
3
Funny

How could the person who calls Augusta sarcastic remarks all the time(Mayberry) actually think CC is progressive with less diversity, jobs, entertainment, businesses, no airport, etc?

Does progressive mean when the media doesn't report the crime, government squabbles, negative situations in the schools, etc and only report the positive stories?

How does the normal suburban growth from the jobs in RC automatically make you progressive?

CC would be progressive if they were able to take advantage of the growth in the last decade, and bring in high paying office jobs.. The new Taxslayer building in Evans is nice, but the CSRA needs thousands of jobs to fully survive.

I bet Ron Cross will continue to hide from the public during this incident, and some of the residents in CC won't care because they can't bash Deke this time.

Riverman1
84066
Points
Riverman1 02/19/14 - 06:16 pm
2
1
Hope We're Not "Progressive"

Countyman, the word "progressive" is the theme of the Democrats. We certainly don't want to go that route. We are a conservative Republican county. As far as Columbia County "surviving" heh, I don't think you have to worry about that with one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. Good luck with your progressives in Richmond County. Tell Deke hello if he is back from the beach yet. Buy him a drink for me at the Jazz Café.

Riverman1
84066
Points
Riverman1 02/19/14 - 06:21 pm
2
0
Ya Think?

RuleofLaw said, "The biggest revelations are the fees and interest that were not remitted to the County."

Ya think? Money that belongs to the county not being given to the county means stealing to most of us.

ruleoflaw
209
Points
ruleoflaw 02/19/14 - 07:50 pm
0
0
Fees most likely do not belong to the County

RM,
I don't think the fees are at issue here, as I said above. Interest most likely should go to the County, as I said above.

You can gruff all you want, but the law should be followed, and the proper process adhered to.
As I have said from the beginning:
I assume the contracts predate the law - true in 1 case
I assume contracts were with Allen, not the County - absolutely true
Even if the County owned the contract, Allen would be compensated similarly - most likely

Now, revelations of these accounts don't mean Allen has personally gained from the nonpayment to the County. The money is still there, based on the audit draft. i haven't looked at GA Code to see if this is allowed or not. If, not, as I have said, this is grounds for removal from office. Whether she will be removed or not is another question.

Based on what I see now, Allen may be asked to make some restitution for part of her commission from Harlem for 2013, get a slap on the wrist for any of the non-remittance of monies to the County, and the current contract with Harlem will be moved to a County contract. Allen, in exchange will not seek office again.
Harlem and Grovetown will sign new one year agreements with Columbia County for 2%, the new Tax Commissioner will be minimally compensated if at all for the extra duties
Then, after one year, Harlem and Grovetown will sign new contracts for 5.5% and 4.5% respectively for tax collection from the County.

I'll keep watching.........

Lee Benedict
1585
Points
Lee Benedict 02/19/14 - 08:29 pm
2
0
Speaking of open records requests,

Ron Cross booted out the person who handled them and replaced her with someone who lied to one requesting open records. She was asked, "I would like to see any emails between Mike Anderson and Patti Laster between June 25-27 2012." Her reply, "The records you requested on January 10, 2014 (“..any emails between Mike Anderson and Patti Laster between June 25-27 2012”) do not exist." The requestor replied with, "I am sending you the open records law, I know this email exist in your records it was sent on June 27th 2012." Ron Cross' hand-picked successor responded with, "As we discussed on the telephone, attached are the email communications between Mike Anderson and Patti Laster between June 25-27 2012." FOR THE RECORD, I was not the one who made the request, but the one who did sent the exchange to me.

So, Ron Cross replaces someone with someone who denies that emails exist, then, oh me oh my, they magically appear after someone sends a copy of the law and calls her out. BTW, the emails detail certain environmental no-no's and mentions developers by name...developers who support Cross. And I know for a fact that local media has a copy as well, but, have you heard anything reported on it? Gee...why? Perhaps it's not important/relevant, or, beneficial to their guy's reelection chances?

So just because one makes an open records request, don't count on Ron Cross' hand-picked person to handle your request being particularly honest.

LillyfromtheMills
13293
Points
LillyfromtheMills 02/19/14 - 08:43 pm
3
0
Not in my wildest dreams

Would I ever have done what this Kay Allen has done. What is the deal with these people in power - Linda on down - they have connections and become crooks. They shame us all!

Graymare
3205
Points
Graymare 02/19/14 - 08:57 pm
2
0
Where there's smoke, there's

Where there's smoke, there's fire and I bet we're just seeing the smoke. Let's see who's next and tells on themselves with their bragging and sense of entitlement. "What you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops." Luke 12:3

D D DOG
97
Points
D D DOG 02/19/14 - 09:26 pm
0
0
No Surprise Here
Unpublished

7 months into this investigation and we now know the same thing we knew back in August 2013. "Kay Allen has stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from us. What I want to know is "when will she be charged and arrested" also what is going on with K.A. not paying federal taxes for years. Ed Tarver,Ashley Wright, it's time to earn your paycheck cause it don't seem like our Gov is going to do anything. How much more money will K.A. cost this county. I am sure this audit cost many thousands of dollars and why did the audit only go back 18 months??? This is only the tip of the iceberg.

Riverman1
84066
Points
Riverman1 02/19/14 - 09:26 pm
2
0
RuleofLaw

"Based on what I see now, Allen may be asked to make some restitution for part of her commission from Harlem for 2013, get a slap on the wrist for any of the non-remittance of monies to the County, and the current contract with Harlem will be moved to a County contract. Allen, in exchange will not seek office again."

Well, that would be ideal for Allen at this stage. But she won't get off that easy. The law is after the county parcel size exceeded 50,000 the money had to go to the county, not Kay Allen. It's plain enough. These current events with the audit are simply astounding and add to the theme she believes herself to be above the law. The DA is in a position where she has to take action. It's gone that far. Allen should have made amends earlier.

Lee Benedict
1585
Points
Lee Benedict 02/19/14 - 09:48 pm
1
0
I stand corrected.

A local "media" outlet did report on the email thing, but since it's an anonymous blog (they won't reveal their identities), I do not mention it.

Pops
8540
Points
Pops 02/19/14 - 10:12 pm
4
0
I know how to get to the

bottom of this. Let's get some brilliant mind from the progressive lil burg of Augusta......let's say....Marion Williams to demand Kay Allen's hard drive. He'll get the the real story.

ruleoflaw
209
Points
ruleoflaw 02/19/14 - 11:47 pm
0
0
RM that is not the Law

RM wrote "The law is after the county parcel size exceeded 50,000 the money had to go to the county, not Kay Allen. It's plain enough."

Not so RM. The law is that once the County passes 50,000 parcels, any new contracts must be written with the County. Also the commissions may still go to the TC if that is agreed between the TC and the County Commission.
In this case the Grovetown contract was not new, so the law does not yet apply. the Harlem contract was written in late 2012, so for the year 2013, the new law applies and the contract should have been through the County. Allen would still be due most of the proceeds, if not all, based on precedent in other counties in the State.

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