A sense of resignation

County splits difference to try to make Kay Allen problem go away

  • Follow Editorials

How much money would it take to make all your problems go away?

For Columbia County – and for one problem in particular – it cost $80,650.

That amount represents half of more than $160,000 in disputed fees collected by Kay Allen, Columbia County’s now-former tax commissioner. Her resignation was announced Tuesday as a term of her settlement with the county. Her husband, District 3 Commissioner Charles Allen, also resigned.

Since 2009, Kay Allen had been paid fees by the cities of Harlem and Grovetown for providing tax collection services. But a state law that took effect several years ago changed many such agreements allowing that additional lucrative compensation.

When Columbia County officials recently found out about Allen’s continued collections even after the law changed, they wanted that money returned to the county. Allen contended it was still legally hers to collect.

So the county will end up getting just half of it back, under a settlement agreement struck between the Allens and the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

It left many people scratching their heads. Why give back just half the money? It’s either all the county’s money or it isn’t.

The $80,650 apparently represents the cost of Columbia County avoiding a protracted legal battle over interpreting a state tax-collection law. Applying laborious forensic detail to each penny, and who’s entitled to it, would require a lot of legal hours – all billable to taxpayers.

With the county no longer pursuing a civil case against the Allens, the probability drops of another governmental entity being invigorated enough to mount a criminal case.

But here’s another question: Why even allow this particular tax law to begin with?

It takes a heightened level of professional expertise to navigate the often difficult process of determining and collecting taxes. But that expertise doesn’t rise to the level of allowing a tax commissioner to pocket a cut of the take.

That’s likely the reason why many Georgia counties – including Richmond County – don’t allow their tax commissioners to enter into such dubious arrangements. The office is collecting the people’s money, not the commissioner in charge.

The law was tweaked a few years ago supposedly to help prevent tax commissioners from abusing this overly generous privilege. But in the wake of the Kay Allen fiasco, state lawmakers need to consider whether the privilege should be extended to tax commissioners at all.

A lot of Columbia County taxpayers are fuming over this incident. If they feel robbed, the effect really is twofold. The public also seems to have been robbed of a full explanation from the former tax commissioner herself.

In that sense, Columbia County’s problem hasn’t totally gone away. Until all the details are thrown into full sunlight, murmurs are bound to persist about whether other aspects of this case are being covered up.

The Allens owe at least that much to the people they used to serve.

Comments (41) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Riverman1
93507
Points
Riverman1 03/06/14 - 05:47 am
9
0
Sigh Is Right

“Why give back just half the money? It’s either all the county’s money or it isn’t.”

Exactly!

“With the county no longer pursuing a civil case against the Allens, the probability drops of another governmental entity being invigorated enough to mount a criminal case.”

And exactly!

Thanks to Steve Crawford for the investigative reporting that led to her resignation and will hopefully divulge more about the Half-way House actions of Columbia County government in this matter allowing her to keep half the money.

ColCo
927
Points
ColCo 03/06/14 - 07:02 am
4
3
Which is better?

To spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees on a case that would take years to come to trial, BOTH Allens would stay in office until the case was resolved, both would continue to be paid monthly, receive benefits, build their pensions and be in a position to affect the County, or to settle with both resigning immediately. Remember, the original deal she offered was the County gets $20k and she stays in office, take it or leave it.

Junket103
471
Points
Junket103 03/06/14 - 07:03 am
6
0
Excellent Editorial

Perhaps Columbia County Commission could benefit from an infusion of a personality the likes of Marion Williams. Heck, Richmond County would gladly trade him, say for a Coroner. Richmond would probably throw in an unlimited gas card for free. His outspoken manner and disruptive nature for the status quo in the power structure would be enlightening to the people of Columbia County.

Congrats to Sen. Davis for his efforts to push legislation improving the role of Coroners in Georgia. This from a Democrat in a red state. Where are the Republicans serving Columbia County when it comes to reforming the rules involving the Tax Commissioners throughout the state? Kay Allen has provided the spark to move legislation, now light the fire and pass comprehensive reform that outlaws the practice at the heart of this controversy.

seenitB4
97254
Points
seenitB4 03/06/14 - 07:56 am
2
2
ReleehwEoj
161
Points
ReleehwEoj 03/06/14 - 08:12 am
0
2
Tax commissioner's authority

I'm curious how "counties don’t allow their tax commissioners to enter into such dubious arrangements". Tax Commissioner is a constitutional officer and as such I don't understand how counties are able to supersede that authority.

cheeringonthedawgs
108
Points
cheeringonthedawgs 03/06/14 - 08:43 am
7
1
Where else did she cheat?

Since SHE was the tax commissioner has anyone checked to see if her tax records are correct? After all she has "doctored" other things, could she also "doctor" her tax records? Why is she allowed to get her full benefits in retirement? I don't understand how these people can commit fraud and come out smelling like a rose when I work my tail off to stay afloat legally.

Bizkit
35500
Points
Bizkit 03/06/14 - 08:52 am
9
0
Gosh their name is mud so I

Gosh their name is mud so I wonder if they will move. You can bet that someone in Kroger or Wallmart will give them a earful how they robbed them and what crooks they are-make a big scene. It will be difficult to fit in if you stole 80K from the community. Tax payers are an unforgiving bunch.

overburdened_taxpayer
117
Points
overburdened_taxpayer 03/06/14 - 09:20 am
7
0
Even though the civil suit is

Even though the civil suit is gone I surely hope the criminal charges are followed up on should there be any substance to them whether it be local or federal.

Riverman1
93507
Points
Riverman1 03/06/14 - 10:15 am
7
1
What Are We Saying Here?

The subject mentioned in this editorial and I hear often with the county dropping the civil suit and the possibility of the DA not pursuing criminal charges is that it would be a time consuming case that would cost too much. She would likely bring in highly paid defense attorneys and the trial would be complicated. Are we sending the message in Columbia County if you have the money to pay for a substantial defense, you won’t be charged for breaking laws or pursued by the county for civil wrongs?

Bizkit
35500
Points
Bizkit 03/06/14 - 10:21 am
8
0
Exactly Riverman! But you

Exactly Riverman! But you have to have wealth proportional to the crime so a really big crime will take major bucks to cover up and allow the person to walk. No public official likes to see another public official in jail-just too close to home and makes them feel uncomfortable.

dichotomy
37418
Points
dichotomy 03/06/14 - 10:25 am
4
3
"Settle...it's

"Settle...it's cheaper"

"Don't lock up criminals.....it's too expensive"

"Don't prosecute shoplifters....it costs too much"

Apparently it is just cheaper to let criminals go free....and let them keep what they stole too. And we wonder why we have so much crime and corruption. BECAUSE IT APPARENTLY PAYS. We have the choice of doing the RIGHT thing or the CHEAP thing but when we do the CHEAP thing we have lost the high moral ground. Crime should be prosecuted at all ages, at all damage levels, and at all income and influence levels...at any costs...and ALL criminals should be incarcerated for an appropriate, but significant, amount of time. ALL stolen or misappropriated monies should be recovered. And all criminals should be required to pay 100% restitution to anyone who suffered loss due to their actions before being considered for parole or probation. Anything else simply says "crime is acceptable". Now, you get something like that and you will have a justice system that works. What we have now is NOT a justice system. We have a "crime is acceptable" system motivated by "it's cheaper and less work".

I sure miss the days when, if you stole ANYTHING...even a soda pop...you were going to do at least six months wielding a swing blade in the county ditches. We didn't have much stealing going on back then.

Dixieman
17313
Points
Dixieman 03/06/14 - 10:48 am
9
2
That's what a "settlement" is

Neither side gets 100% of what it wants. You accept less because you might do worse if it goes to trial, the legal fees for trying a case can erode your damages, delay and distraction are eliminated, do the defendants have enough assets to pay it all, etc. etc. So never expect 100% in any settlement. And the Allens still face possible criminal charges which are NOT affected by this civil settlement.
And BTW, pensions are almost universally exempt from garnishment or denial. You worked for it and get it even if you are a crook. Only situation I know where you can lose it is if you are convicted of murdering your spouse in many States you are denied the survivor benefits you would otherwise get; hardly applicable here.
===================
I'm on a mission to get my points up to five figures. I will win a Flexible Flyer red sled if I get to 10,000 (or something -- never could figure out what these AC points are good for). Please help a veteran get there - and God bless you today.

Riverman1
93507
Points
Riverman1 03/06/14 - 10:52 am
5
1
Dixieman, I Respect Your Opinion

Dixieman, I respect your opinion enormously. You may be right about the civil case, but I disagree about the criminal charges. I believe this from the editorial is apt and true: "With the county no longer pursuing a civil case against the Allens, the probability drops of another governmental entity being invigorated enough to mount a criminal case."

ColCo
927
Points
ColCo 03/06/14 - 11:24 am
6
1
Grand Jury

The DA had better at least present the case to the grand jury for consideration. If she doesn't, the voters in Columbia County may not be as supportive in 2016 as they were in 2012. Without us, she loses in dramatic fashion.

Sweet son
11585
Points
Sweet son 03/06/14 - 11:31 am
6
1
Riverman just said it in his last comment!

the probability drops of another governmental entity being invigorated enough to mount a criminal case.

Miss Sweetie Pie Allen has cut a deal regarding the money but I bet she has also as a part of the money deal worked with Ashley Wright to avoid prosecution. And that, is simply wrong!

In a criminal case resulting in conviction she would never do a day in jail but she needs to be brought before a judge/the people to try to explain why she did what she did. Old saying: 'Ignorance of the law is no excuse' and it definitely applies here.

Little Lamb
48969
Points
Little Lamb 03/06/14 - 11:42 am
4
1
Right to remain silent

If Kay Allen is brought before a judge, she does not have to testify, so that desire for an explanation might not be satisfied.

ruleoflaw
226
Points
ruleoflaw 03/06/14 - 11:50 am
4
2
The CCC knows how this would have played out in court

And if the AC would practice a little more journalism, they could verify the reason...
This case would be about 3 things - the law, the money, and the politics.
The law:
Before 2007, TCs were able to contract directly with municipalities for collection of their taxes, and receive direct compensation from the same. In Fulton County, the TC there collected $1/parcel from a few munis, including Sandy Springs, to the tune of over $200K/ year! A Ga State Rep from Sandy Springs, also the city attorney, did nit like this and sought to end the practice of direct contracting and collection of fees by TC in large counties specifically to stop the Fulton County TC from collecting so much money. So he wrote the 2007 law that "we all know" ended contracts in counties over 50,000 parcels, and requires contracts to be with the counties, not the TCs.
So how did that work out? The Fulton County TC charges that this only applies to new contracts and does not end his preexisting contracts, so he has continued to "steal" >$200K per year under the "illegal" contract. What was the response from the Sandy Springs Attorney and author of the 2007 law? Did he write a letter to the TC stating under the new law the existing contract was invalid and he was drafting a new contract with Fulton County for tax collection? Hardly...he essentially said, "oops, looks like a loophole in the law....we will have to fix it...."
So he has tried unsuccessfully to get legislation passed that would make the TC in Fulton County an appointed position, which would give the CC authority over his contracts and thus end them.
If the AC and Steve Crawford really wanted to know why this deal was made, and why the Fulton County TC continues to operate under a contract which predates the 2007 law, they would drive to Atlanta, or pick up the phone and call State Rep Wendall Willard to understand why he has been unable to stop this.
The CCC is not stupid. I'm sure they have investigated this and know the answer...and were more than happy to settle for her resignation.
As for the AC, they probably also know that answer, but as many of you here know, there is always another side to the story. But sometimes telling it makes the issue go away...and that doesn't sell newspapers....

Part2 - The Money, will come later today

Darby
29216
Points
Darby 03/06/14 - 11:59 am
4
1
OKay, Dixie...

You got to me. I'm now scouring the AC site, looking for a chance to add to your point total until you reach the magic number of 10,000.

After that, you're on your own.

And if you ever find out what good they are (the points) let us all know.

seenitB4
97254
Points
seenitB4 03/06/14 - 12:29 pm
2
2
Thank you dixieman & ruleoflaw

I have read the articles in the AJC..& I know what they have done & haven't been able to stop.....the very reason I said this settlement was a good one.
dixieman ..I also gave you points.♥

GiantsAllDay
10483
Points
GiantsAllDay 03/06/14 - 12:32 pm
7
2
At the Augusta Chronicle main

At the Augusta Chronicle main office, You can redeem 10,000 points for a 20% off coupon good at all the shoppes at Port Royal or all the stores at the Regency Mall.

ruleoflaw
226
Points
ruleoflaw 03/06/14 - 12:37 pm
1
1
Good one Giants:)

How about an autographed 8x10 of the Boy King?

Stunned 2
6279
Points
Stunned 2 03/06/14 - 12:38 pm
6
1
The costs of prosecution can never be a factor for seeking

justice. We would have a lawless society. Taxpayers pay for the prosecution of murderers, of shoplifters, of illegal drug dealers, etc.. We want justice in this case. Obviously, the current CC commissioners were not the men for the job. I will be not vote for any current commissioner in any future election.

Bizkit
35500
Points
Bizkit 03/06/14 - 02:43 pm
3
1
She can do like Lois Lerner

She can do like Lois Lerner and drink a fifth. I mean plead a fifth.

harley_52
25826
Points
harley_52 03/06/14 - 02:45 pm
5
1
"Are we sending the message in Columbia County....

....if you have the money to pay for a substantial defense, you won’t be charged for breaking laws or pursued by the county for civil wrongs?"

Of course.

Why would Columbia County be any different than other jurisdictions?

Wealthy people (particularly famous wealthy people) don't live by the same rules and laws as the rest of us. Nothing new, or unique, about Columbia County at all.

Riverman1
93507
Points
Riverman1 03/06/14 - 02:51 pm
3
1
Notice, the authority on this

Notice, the authority on this board, Dixieman, says she can still face criminal charges.

harley_52
25826
Points
harley_52 03/06/14 - 03:13 pm
2
1
Lots Of Wealthy, Connected People...

...COULD face criminal charges in lots of cases. For some reason, they rarely DO.

If you need evidence of that, see the IRS and the DOS.

Riverman1
93507
Points
Riverman1 03/06/14 - 03:27 pm
3
1
I wonder if Clay Whittle and

I wonder if Clay Whittle and Richard Roundtree could personally bill the towns in their counties for police protection?

Riverman1
93507
Points
Riverman1 03/06/14 - 03:41 pm
3
1
Of Course Fulton County Won't Prosecute

Of course no one in Fulton County will prosecute the tax commissioner there taking the money. You know the politics and demographics of Fulton County. Let's be real here. If someone is trying to say the county's refusal to bring charges is some kind of legal precedence, it's hilarious.

Sweet son
11585
Points
Sweet son 03/06/14 - 03:46 pm
4
1
@Little Lamb

You are right if she is brought before a judge, she does not have to utter a word. But she owes an explanation to the people of Columbia County who have blindly re-elected her for too many years.

Bet it doesn't happen!

ruleoflaw
226
Points
ruleoflaw 03/06/14 - 03:54 pm
1
1
RM, the charges would not be brought by the County

I noted that since the contract is between the TC and Sandy Springs, that Sandy Springs would declare the contract invalid and move to draft a new one with the County. Then the fight would be between the TC and Sandy Springs...Fulton County would not be involved.

Back to Top

Top headlines

Kettle donations rise in 2014

After a disappointing showing last year, donations to the Salvation Army's local Red Kettle Campaign have risen nearly 20 percent in 2014.
Search Augusta jobs