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Tax commissioner had previous issues remitting fees, says commission chairman

Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 6:55 PM
Last updated Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 2:25 AM
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Kay Allen’s recently discovered failure to remit funding to the county and other authorities isn’t the first time auditors discovered such problems with Columbia County’s tax commissioner, county officials said.

Columbia County Tax Commissioner Kay Allen has failed to remit thousands of dollars in public funds as required by state law, according to the findings of an audit of her office.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/FILE
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/FILE
Columbia County Tax Commissioner Kay Allen has failed to remit thousands of dollars in public funds as required by state law, according to the findings of an audit of her office.

“This is the same thing she was doing a few years ago when she was holding mailing fees from car tags,” Columbia County Com­mis­sion Chairman Ron Cross said.

Cross said the situation was discovered by auditors in December 2009. A report dated Dec. 9, 2009, from the accounting firm Mauldin and Jenkins stated that Allen had accumulated $203,000 in mailing fees from automobile tag payments that she had failed to remit to the county.

“It is our understanding that since postage is paid by the General Fund budget, these mail fees should be turned over to the General Fund of the County,” the report stated. “We recommend that these fees be paid over to the County General Fund as soon as possible.”

Not long after the issue was discovered, Cross said, the commission directed the county finance director to send a letter to Allen asking for the withheld mailing fees. That letter was submitted Dec. 16, 2009, according to county records.

She released the money several months later, only after Cross threatened to report the situation to the governor, he said.

“She just kept saying it was her money, it belonged to her department and she had plans for it,” he said. “I said, ‘Kay, we either got to get that money back today or I will call the governor.’ ”

After he threatened to inform the governor of the situation, Cross said, Allen relented and produced a check for the full amount that had been dated in January.

State law requires tax commissioners 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.”

The 2009 incident has similarities to what was uncovered in a recent audit ordered by the county commission in December. The audit examined the tax commissioner’s books and accounts over an 18-month period beginning July 1, 2012.

A draft version of the audit, which is still waiting for Allen’s response, indicates that she failed to remit more than $93,000 owed the county and other taxing authorities and that the tax commissioner used 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 audit also confirmed that Allen had received $57,500 in fees from Grovetown and Harlem in the past two years as payments for tax collection services.

Commissioners contend the fees are contrary to state law, a claim that Allen, through her attorney, has denied.

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bigdan4439
24
Points
bigdan4439 02/19/14 - 09:17 pm
10
1

Really?!?

If this is true then Ron Cross has messed up BIG TIME. Any other job in America an employee involved in misappropriation of funds is terminated immediately. This is a PUBLIC SERVANT being given a slap on the wrist and a pat on the back after attempting to STEAL over $200k. Ron Cross needs to reconsider his bid for reelection, the leadership in Columbia County needs to pay a price for allowing this to continue for so long with no consequences. There should be no second chances or continued warnings in a situation like this.

Capitalismisgood
38
Points
Capitalismisgood 02/19/14 - 10:51 pm
4
1

Mrs. Allen is an elected

Mrs. Allen is an elected official and therefore, cannot be terminated by Mr. Cross.

WillyWanker
93
Points
WillyWanker 02/19/14 - 10:55 pm
5
0

She is getting more popular

She is getting more popular here than Milton Rubin!

ruleoflaw
165
Points
ruleoflaw 02/19/14 - 11:59 pm
2
4

Steve Crawford - you should reread the audit

Steve wrote "the tax commissioner used 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 audit states Allen is paying the credit card bill directly from property tax funds. The county finance department then reimburses the property tax account for the amounts charged using the credit card.

Steve writes this as though Allen is doing this underhandedly and behind the County's back. in reality, the County is party to this arrangement, and while it may be cumbersome and against general accounting principles, doesn't rise to the level of thievery or malfeasance.

itsanotherday1
34600
Points
itsanotherday1 02/20/14 - 12:44 am
7
0

I dearly hope there were laws

I dearly hope there were laws broken that allows prosecution of this arrogant woman. Like RM said, things have gone nicely in ColCo, so we've become complacent about scrutinizing public officials. She should have been ousted years ago. I'm hearing anecdotes now about her arrogance and control mania going on for a long time. Why didn't people speak up before?

Navy Gary
884
Points
Navy Gary 02/20/14 - 02:00 am
1
10

I don't know....

I don't know but I'd say Mrs. Allen has ticked off somebody in or that has pull within the Columbia County hierarchy. It's looking more and more like a political lynching to me. Everyone that has enough brain power to read the paper should realize that had there been any crimes committed, Mrs. Allen would've been in an orange jumpsuit WEEKS ago when the FBI was in town. Now, since no charges have been filed and there's no missing money, they (the hidden CC hierarchy) have resorted to using the "journalistic bullying" tactic to prolong their, so far, unfruitful witch hunt. I've got a feeling it won't end either until she's run out of town on a rail....lol. Geez, leave the lady alone already!

Riverman1
70479
Points
Riverman1 02/20/14 - 06:01 am
8
0

Maybe A Face Lift Next?

"The audit also confirmed that Allen had received $57,500 in fees from Grovetown and Harlem in the past two years as payments for tax collection services."

That is in direct violation of the law. It should be punished. But,I remember the 2009 episode of her keeping the county money. She claimed she was going to remodel her office I believe. She should have done a Linda Schrenko and had a face lift, too. This has reached the stage of being flat out hilarious.

jimmymac
23125
Points
jimmymac 02/20/14 - 08:00 am
0
0

ELECTION

Unpublished

You elect these people and in many cases re-elect them and you wonder why they feel they can get away with such corruption? Pay attention and start holding elected officials accountable like they would in private business.

bigdan4439
24
Points
bigdan4439 02/20/14 - 08:19 am
6
0

@capitalismisgood Ron may not

@capitalismisgood Ron may not have been able to fire Mrs. Allen but he could damn sure have publicly called for her resignation or gubernatorial involvement at the FIRST sign of trouble. She wasn't running the neighborhood lemonade stand and this was far from an honest mistake.

mugsie
20
Points
mugsie 02/20/14 - 08:35 am
4
0

Odd

I remember finding it curious that if checks were mailed in there were payable to "Kay Allen, Columbia County Tax Commissioner".

corgimom
19208
Points
corgimom 02/20/14 - 08:48 am
3
0

ruleoflaw, no, it's not

ruleoflaw, no, it's not cumbersome, it's illegal.

It is not her personal slush fund, government funds can only be used for what they are intended for.

ruleoflaw
165
Points
ruleoflaw 02/20/14 - 08:53 am
2
2

RM, you and I have gone round

RM, you and I have gone round on this before - the 2007 law applies to new contracts only. We have the contracts, provided yesterday, that show the Grovetown contract is a 2002 contract, and the Harlem contract was signed in late 2012. The Harlem contract is in violation of the law, which means the compensation from 2013 from Harlem, $7,000, is subject to review. This contract should be invalidated and a new one done through the county per the new statutes.
So out of the $160,000 that Steve Crawford keeps referring to, the 2007 law will affect less than $7K.
The audit was not a legal review, only an accounting review. In the case of fees collected by the TC, it may be that the fees, by law, are retained by the TC's office in a specified account. The auditors will look at the fees as collections that were not remitted to State or County authorities and note that in the audit. From a legal perspective, this may be absolutely proper and permitted, but the audit only refers to accounting principles.
This subject on the TC Office is confusing at times. Many here do not realise the TC receives a budget for operation of the office from the County. The County's say in spending that money ends there, including TC Office personnel. This is why the fees for collection of taxes from Grovetown and Harlem, whether contracted directly with the TC or through the county, would typically pass to the TC as compensation, unless the County has provided for this collection specifically in the budget allotted to the TC.
The whole area around remitting funds such as fees and penalties gets fuzzy as to what is a County revenue and what can be retained by the TC. I believe interest is specifically called out to be remitted to the State or County as appropriate.

my.voice
4192
Points
my.voice 02/20/14 - 08:59 am
4
0

Who is driving the train in

Who is driving the train in CC Government? Has nobody ever heard of checks and balances? If so, why is this woman allowed to run rampant with taxpayer cash?

ruleoflaw
165
Points
ruleoflaw 02/20/14 - 09:07 am
4
0

Corgi, I didn't say it was right...

I said it was cumbersome. Why wouldn't Allen just get reimbursed directly from the County? that would be one transaction, instead of two.
Nothing here accuses Allen of stealing anything, and the County Finance department is reimbursing the property tax fund for travel expenses. So the County has been participating in this practice along with Allen.
I think doing it that way is asking for trouble, since they are transferring funds to an from the property tax fund unnecessarily.

Little Lamb
40104
Points
Little Lamb 02/20/14 - 09:08 am
4
1

@ Navy Gary

Navy Gary posted:

Geez, leave the lady alone already!

That’s no lady, that’s . . . .

I leave it to others to fill in the blank.

Mr. Thackeray
758
Points
Mr. Thackeray 02/20/14 - 09:46 am
3
0

Cross needs to go along with

Cross needs to go along with her and her husband!!!

Little Lamb
40104
Points
Little Lamb 02/20/14 - 10:15 am
4
0

Opponent

Well, Cross has a challenger in this year's election. His name is Jim Bartley.

willie7
824
Points
willie7 02/20/14 - 11:05 am
0
0

Gov. Deal need put Mrs. Allen

Unpublished

Gov. Deal need put Mrs. Allen on leave or suspend her!!!!!

Avvocato
7
Points
Avvocato 02/20/14 - 11:45 am
0
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. Did Mr. Batchelor attend a county attorney educational seminar that discussed the law change - if so, did he so advise the County? 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?

Steve Crawford
80
Points
Steve Crawford 02/20/14 - 11:54 am
2
0

Reimbursements

Ruleoflaw

Just to clarify, the county is not reimbursing the tax account directly. According to Finance Director Leanne Reece: "We are not reimbursing the property tax account, we are reimbursing Mrs. Allen. We did not know until recently that she was paying the bill through the property tax account."
The way I have described it in the story is accurate.

Navy Gary
884
Points
Navy Gary 02/20/14 - 12:55 pm
1
3

Thanks!

Thanks for all the thumbs down ratings!

Now all of the "journalists" (TV, Radio and Print) in Augusta should reveal to the public who is actually behind the scenes relentlessly pushing this witch hunt. Come on guys, doesn't your journalistic oath take precedence over the "good ol' boy" network? Oh wait, maybe not....

ruleoflaw
165
Points
ruleoflaw 02/20/14 - 01:42 pm
1
1

Steve, I was referencing the audit report

Your story implies that the audit report indicated Allen was directly reimbursed by the County and then she in turn reimbursed the tax account. This language was not in the audit. It clearly stated the County was reimbursing the tax account directly.
I'm not saying you are wrong Steve, but you should clarify that your account is from an interview with the Finance Director, and that it differs from the draft audit report. If you had interviewed Leeane Reece as part of the report, it would be appropriate to quote her directly, instead of implying that it was part of the draft audit.

You should also infom the auditors, as they would need to amend the audit for the final submittal.

Riverman1
70479
Points
Riverman1 02/20/14 - 03:17 pm
2
0

RuleofLaw, you are entirely

RuleofLaw, you are entirely too close to be objective. I haven't seen so much inaccurate legal hair splitting in a long time. You said the 2007 law applies to new contracts only. You believe it means when the county parcel size passes 50,000 the personal contract can continue? Can you reference that?

ruleoflaw
165
Points
ruleoflaw 02/20/14 - 03:40 pm
1
0

RM, I am at your service...

Here is the GA Code. It only sets forth the rules for making a new contract. It does not apply to existing contracts.
This is why Fulton County has been unable to end the practice for TC Arthur Ferdinand, who makes ~$200,000 per year in municiple collections. This GA Law was written specifically against Ferdinand by a legistalor who did not like the status quo. What he failed to do was to insert a clause which would end all contracts on the first anniversary of the county surpassing 50,000 parcels.
Sidetracked....here is the code:

48-5-359.1. Contract with county tax commissioner to assess and collect municipal taxes and prepare tax digest

(a) (1) (A) This paragraph shall apply to a county which has fewer than 50,000 tax parcels within such county.

(B) Any county and any municipality wholly or partially located within such county may contract, subject to approval by the tax commissioner of the county, for the tax commissioner to prepare the tax digest for such municipality; to assess and collect municipal taxes in the same manner as county taxes; and, for the purpose of collecting such municipal taxes, to invoke any remedy permitted for collection of municipal taxes. Any contract authorized by this subsection between the county governing authority and a municipality shall specify an amount to be paid by the municipality to the county which amount will substantially approximate the cost to the county of providing the service to the municipality. Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law, the tax commissioner is authorized to contract for and to accept, receive, and retain compensation from the municipality for such additional duties and responsibilities in addition to that compensation provided by law to be paid to the tax commissioner by the county.

(2) (A) This paragraph shall apply to any county which has 50,000 or more tax parcels within such county.

(B) Any county and any municipality wholly or partially located within such county may contract for the tax commissioner to prepare the tax digest for such municipality; to assess and collect municipal taxes in the same manner as county taxes; and, for the purpose of collecting such municipal taxes, to invoke any remedy permitted for collection of municipal taxes. Any contract authorized by this subsection between the county governing authority and a municipality shall specify an amount to be paid by the municipality to the county which amount will substantially approximate the cost to the county of providing the service to the municipality. Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law, the tax commissioner is authorized to accept, receive, and retain compensation from the county for such additional duties and responsibilities in addition to that compensation provided by law to be paid to the tax commissioner by the county.

(b) With respect to any county for which the office of tax commissioner has not been created, any reference in subsection (a) of this Code section to the tax commissioner shall be deemed to refer to the tax receiver and the tax collector.

RM, tell me where it is applied to existing contracts which predate 2007......I will wait.....

ruleoflaw
165
Points
ruleoflaw 02/20/14 - 03:46 pm
1
0

RM, as a matter of fact, due

RM, as a matter of fact, due to the inability of the GA law to end Ferdinand's contracts and his collection of $1 per parcel for municipalities, a state legislator has resorted to introducing a bill to make Fulton County TC an appointed position. This would make him subject to the rule of the County Commission, rather than a State Officer. See here:
http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/proposed-law-aims-to-cut-fulton-tax-c...

If the law allowed the cancellation of an existing contract, this would have been applied in Fulton County long ago.....

Riverman1
70479
Points
Riverman1 02/20/14 - 04:02 pm
2
0

RuleofLaw

I don't want to keep you waiting, RuleofLaw. Show me where it says existing contracts take precedence over the law? You say: "What he failed to do was to insert a clause which would end all contracts on the first anniversary of the county surpassing 50,000 parcels."

Because you believe a clause had to be inserted does not make it so. If some kind of contract involved slaves would it be legal?

The law was enacted and it says the 50,000 parcel size is the catalyst to make the activity illegal. We are assuming she had some kind of agreement with the towns in any case, but where does it say an existing agreement would remain valid? But I'll keep things very simple here. Show me where the law says existing agreements can't be ruled illegal. What did the towns believe the agreements represented?

corgimom
19208
Points
corgimom 02/20/14 - 04:12 pm
3
0

The IRS loves stuff like

The IRS loves stuff like this, when something big just falls in their lap.

And ruleoflaw, governmental funds are only allowed to be used for what they are specifically for and nothing else. Ever.

It's not "cumbersome", it's illegal. Period.

ruleoflaw
165
Points
ruleoflaw 02/20/14 - 04:19 pm
1
0

RM you can't enforce what a law does not say

I did not say that a law can't invalidate existing contracts, but this law does not call for that. I mentioned the clause only as an example of how a law can be written to specifically address existing contracts.
Several TC's are using existing contracts to circumvent the new requirements of the law. I am not aware if an official ruling on the legality of this practice has been made. But the fact that they continue to collect, plus the author of the 2007 calling it a "loophole", makes me think the law does not invalidate contracts that predate 2007.

How do you read the law, and on what basis do you make your claims?

Riverman1
70479
Points
Riverman1 02/20/14 - 04:39 pm
3
0

You're reaching, Rule

You're reaching, Rule. Are you listening to the radio today with the complaints about her from taxpayers calling in? It is eye opening. The guy who complained to Allen about his disabled veteran status not being honored found a tax assessor knocking on his door Saturday morning. The employee told him she was instructed to visit his house Saturday to reevaluate his taxes. Can we please get rid of this person who thinks she is Genghis Khan? Reasonable officials simply have to act.

ruleoflaw
165
Points
ruleoflaw 02/20/14 - 04:48 pm
2
0

RM, I am not defending Allen, I am defending the law

You can't make it say what you want simply because someone is a bully and you don't like her.
As I have said, the Harlem contract from 2012 should be invalid, as she did not have authority to make that contract. Also, the failure to remit payment of monies to the State or County which are due is grounds for removal from office.
However, precedent for validity of contracts which predate the 2007 law is established.
If you believe otherwise, please show me where even one TC contract has been invalidated as a result of this law.

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