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Commissioners got what they wanted in Allen deal

Posted: March 9, 2014 - 12:02am

Half the money?

Monday morning quarterbacks all over the region -- myself included – were asking that question about the deal that the Columbia County Board of Commissioners made this past Tuesday, which ushered the county’s embattled tax commissioner out of office after months of controversy.

Many thought it was awfully generous of the county to allow Kay Allen to keep half of the $161,300 she had been paid by Grovetown and Harlem for tax collection services.

Wasn’t the money what this was all about anyway? If she wasn’t supposed to do this, why was she entitled to any of it?

Perhaps. But it’s hard to see how the county could have negotiated a better resolution, given the facts of the situation.

First of all, there’s the law that regulates such tax collection services between cities and counties. In Columbia County’s case, the law states such agreements need to be negotiated between each city and the county – not the tax commissioner. However, the same law also stipulates that tax commissioners are entitled to additional compensation for such work. It’s just up to the county to decide how much.

Commission Chairman Ron Cross has said that if Allen had come to the county in 2009 when the law affected her ongoing agreements with the cities, it was likely they would have worked out a compensation deal for her.

It is more than likely, it is certain. The tax commissioner is not required to collect city taxes, and if the compensation wasn’t to her liking, Allen could have said “no thank you,” at which point the cities would have had to hire someone else.

Of course that would have been politically unpopular, as would revelations to general public that she was getting paid on the side for such deals, which is probably why the subject was never broached.

Nevertheless, the law said Allen was entitled to be paid for the service, no matter how little she actually did to receive that compensation.

Facing the possibility of a prolonged legal battle and mounting attorney fees, commissioners were willing to negotiate on the amount that Allen should return. But this was only after they got their first concession from the tax commissioner, immediate resignation.

With a resignation letter in hand and an end in sight, I suppose $80,650 sounded like a bargain to commissioners.

The bargain, however, does not protect Allen from criminal prosecution, as some have suggested. It only closes an ugly little chapter of Columbia county politics.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. Fed­eral authorities won’t discuss their investigation nor their timeline to wind it up.

As for the case that now resides with District Attorney Ashley Wright, I think the same law that influenced commissioners to allow Allen to keep half of the money, might complicate Wright’s ability to make a case.

Wright would need to prove not only that Allen took money she wasn’t entitled to, but also specify an amount. If Allen was entitled to some of the money, how much did she take wrongfully, $1 or $160,000? She gave back half; maybe that is the figure she would have to work with.

Who knows what a jury would decide?

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Comments (8)

soapy_725

Commissioners got what they wanted. True statement. Always.

What of CC commissioners or their friends want happens. Nothing new. But what of the taxpayers who were defrauded? What of the criminal acts perpetrated with the bounds of CC? Do we no longer prosecute crime because of the cost? No. Only when it is a "sweet heart deal" for a "co conspirator".

The entire CC commission has failed in its fiduciary duties. Law enforcement has failed in its fiduciary duty to protect and serve. The citizens of CC deserve better. The Allen's deserve to be prosecuted in a criminal court.

CC is painting a picture of "crime pays big" for those in political and government power positions.

Riverman1

Wait A Minute

The law does NOT say the towns have to employ the county tax commissioner to do the work. A contract with the county could mean a lower level county employee using county data and county facilities could do that task. Allen didn't HAVE to receive anything.

Sweet son

Riverman is right! CC could have contracted with Harlem and

Grovetown on their own to collect those cities' taxes without any involvement from Kay Allen. CC has all of the resources in place to collect those taxes without Allen's approval! I bet if she had followed the law the County would have paid her but not the rate she got away with. She really didn't do anything to collect the taxes so she really didn't deserve anything. She is smelling sweet with her pay deal and most likely will smell like a rose when the criminal factor is played out. Which is not right!

ruleoflaw

Only the Tax Commissioner can collect taxes via a contract

Only the Tax Commissioner can collect taxes via a contract with the cities. Either the cities can do it by themselves, or contract directly with the TC or the County, depending on the number of parcels.
Either way, the TC is the only one authorized, since the TC is bonded. Here is the law:(excerpt)
"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."

This says the TC is in charge of collection and preparing the digest, and that the TC is taking on extra duty to do such and should be compensated for doing so.
And you can bet when CC contracts with Harlem and Grovetown, wihtin a year or two they will be twice the rate as the current 2% contract. All other collection for Harlem and Grovetown by the TC on behalf of the County are at 5.5% and 4.5% respectively, of which the TC gets $0.

ruleoflaw

TC cannot refuse to collect taxes from cities....

I'm not clear on where the law says the TC can refuse to collect taxes under a county contract, except where the county is under 50,000 parcels. This is because the contract authority lies with the TC in that case, as well as the right of contract refusal. However, where above 50,000 parcels, the county may contract for the TC to collect such taxes, but also shall compensate the TC for the same.
So I believe Steve Crawford is again in error when he states the TC can refuse to collect.

Little Lamb

Fix

The Georgia legislature created this legal mess; but if you think they're capable of fixing it, you would be wrong.

Greed brought down Kay Allen.

Little Lamb

Timing

Now might be a good time for Grovetown and Harlem to think about collecting their own city taxes. How hard could it be?

Riverman1

"Any county and any

"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"

RuleofLaw, it says "may." It does not say "must." The towns can get their taxes done anyway they want.

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