Columbia County officials are still waiting for Gov. Nathan Deal’s office to acknowledge their letter sent last week, reporting “possible malfeasance” on the part of Tax Commissioner Kay Allen.
Commssion Chairman Ron Cross said Monday he had not heard from the governor’s office about the letter, which commissioners approved on Dec. 23. The letter cites possible malfeasance in connection to fees that Allen was paid by Grovetown and Harlem to collect city taxes taxes. The letter says the fees were “retained as personal compensation that should have been remitted to the county.”
Deal’s spokewoman, Sasha Dlugolenski, said via e-mail that he will review the letter and the facts of the case no earlier than sometime next week.
The governor then may send a letter to Allen “informing her of the facts laid out against her and give her the opportunity to show cause to the governor why she should not be removed from office,” Dlugolenski’s e-mail said.
If Allen fails to respond within 10 days, the governor must remove Allen from office, she said. If Allen responds, then Deal will review the case and make a determination on whether Allen can remain.
Dlugolenski said there is no timeframe in which the governor must act.
Cross said he has no idea about how urgently Deal will proceed in the matter, but he hopes some sort of action will be taken soon.
“The governor basically has a free hand to deal with this,” Cross said.
The controversy over Allen’s fees from the cities has been brewing for months, while local and federal law enforcement conducted an investigation into the matter. The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office has already wrapped up its investigation and forwarded its files to District Attorney Ashley Wright.
According to records acquired by the News-Times, since 2009, Allen collected more than $160,000 in personal compensation from the two cities for those services. Allen has acknowledged those payments were fees she kept for herself. Her total compensation for 2013, including $36,000 from Harlem and Grovetown, was $171,597, according to county documents.
The commission’s letter states that practice is a “clear violation” of state law, which says “the governing authority, not the tax commissioner, may contract with municipalities to accept, receive and retain compensation if the county had more than 50,000 parcels.”
Columbia County passed the 50,000-parcel threshold in 2009, two years after the law went into effect.
The letter also says Allen was made aware of the changes in the law in a 2007 state training for tax commissioners conducted by the Georgia Department of Revenue.
Grovetown and Harlem officials have said they thought the payments were going to the county, not to Allen’s personal bank account.
Allen’s attorney, Douglas Chalmers Jr., of Political Law Group, has said the accusations against the tax commsiioner are “politcally motivated,” and that Allen has not broken any state law in being paid fees from the cities for tax collection.