The joint investigation into Tax Commisioner Kay Allen’s agreements to collect taxes for Grovetown and Harlem is troubling on many levels.
First among questions that should be answered: why didn’t Allen, as a constitutional officer, know the law?
The state law that applies to these agreements seems fairly clear, that in counties with more than 50,000 parcels, it is the county that must contract with cities for tax collection and not the tax commissioner. Columbia County passed that threshold several years ago. It is her job to know and understand state laws that apply to her position and responsibility. Perhaps she knew about the change in the law in 2007 and misunderstood its implications. Perhaps she should have consulted the county attorney for an official opinion.
Secondly, why didn’t anyone know these agreements resulted in additional compensation for Allen? Even the one person who has the most intimate knowledge of tax revenues and county budgets, Finance Director Leanne Reece, said she wasn’t aware of the arrangements. Harlem and Grovetown officials were certainly aware they were writing checks to the tax commissioner, but even they thought they were paying the county for tax services. None of those queried said they thought they were sending personal paychecks to Kay Allen. Why didn’t they know?
That could be because agreements between the cities and the county dating back to the late 1990s specify that the cities will reimburse the county for “all cost incurred” for providing that service.
Perhaps the most troubling question is why Allen thought that personal compensation – even if it was allowed by law – was something that was necessary. Certainly, no one wants to turn down more money, but in this situation, who was doing the work?
No doubt the bulk of the work fell upon the shoulders of Allen’s staff. No doubt that county time and resources were used to bill and collect city taxes.
Over the past five years, Allen was paid more than $160,000 by Grovetown and Harlem for this work.
Were the taxpayers of Columbia County reimbursed for the expense? Or have they been subsidizing this service for years, so the tax commissioner can get a better paycheck?
Many will say that Kay Allen has done a lot of good for this communty over her more than two decades of public service.
When all is said and done, however, she may end up owing county taxpayers a lot of money.
At the very least, she owes them some answers.