The reports have continued to pile up and they do not look good. Columbia County Tax Commissioner Kay Allen is sinking deeper and deeper into a political abyss that has been made worse, if that is possible, by her defiant public silence and refusal to come clean to her constituents.
You know the sordid details, but the latest twist came last week courtesy of Columbia County’s top elected official, with the solid backing of his colleagues, as Steve Crawford reported for both The Columbia County News-Times, and The Augusta Chronicle:
“Commission Chairman Ron Cross said the county has endured months of controversy over revelations that Allen had gotten thousands of dollars in additional pay for collecting taxes for Harlem and Grovetown. Commissioners contend her agreements with the cities were without their knowledge or consent and violate state law.
“The time has long passed for a resolution in this case,” Cross said. “In the opinion of this body, Mrs. Allen’s actions have compromised her ability to effectively serve the citizens of this county.”
They want her out, they want her gone and they want what they believe has been wrongfully withheld from the county coffers. As Crawford went on to report, they are not being shy about saying so:
“Commissioner Trey Allen moved to authorize the board’s legal counsel to take legal action to recover the money, and the motion passed unanimously. Kay Allen’s husband, Commissioner Charles Allen, was not present.
Immediately afterward, Commissioner Ron Thigpen said it was time for Allen to “step aside” from her duties as tax commissioner. All the other commissioners solemnly agreed, although no vote was taken on Thigpen’s opinion.
“This issue has cast a dark cloud over our county,” Trey Allen said. “I sincerely hope the tax commissioner will do the right thing.”
Yeah, well, good luck with that.
Commissioners Cross, Thigpen, Trey Allen (no relation to Kay or Charles) and Bill Morris are all in agreement that both Kay and Charles Allen need to resign for the good of the community and the morale of county employees.
Last week’s press conference was the first real public declaration of the sentiment that has been articulated and stressed since word of this scandal broke late last year. Since the county commission is ultimately responsible for managing the funds collected by the tax commissioner and allocating the funds back to her to run her office, pay her staff and herself, for that matter, there are many citizens who wrongly believe that the county commission has some direct supervisory authority over Kay Allen. As an elected constitutional officer, they have virtually no power over her.
Truth be told, Cross and his three fellow commissioners would have been all over the situation months ago if the law would allow it. It does not.
Damning internal audits and ongoing police investigations are all fine and good, but even with an indictment against Kay for wrongdoing in office, we would likely face at least a year or two before a trial got underway, and since the majority of the accusations apparently center on the “interpretation” of state laws and regulations, there is a pretty good chance both legal teams would be financed by the taxpayers.
The legal system is going to take its own sweet time, just like in the successfully prosecuted cases of Charles Walker, Linda Schrenko and Ed McIntyre. But there is also the possibility that there will be no indictments, such as in the case of former State Representative Sue Burmeister, who was never prosecuted for her role in accepting what appeared to be illegal and undeclared campaign contributions, funneled to her reportedly by former State Board of Regents member Tim Shelnut, also un-indicted in the matter.
I say it is time Columbia County citizens, under the leadership of the county Republican Party, take this matter in their own hands, demanding that both Kay and Charles Allen resign their elected positions or face an immediate recall. For years we have watched local Democrats in Augusta sit by quietly while several of their high-profile leaders were carted off to the penitentiary with nary a whisper of apology from them, and absolutely no aggressive stand against the accused. In fact, we saw Charles Walker win a Democratic primary in commanding fashion over an honorable and competent opponent while under a massive federal charges that put him in jail for a decade. I always thought conservatives were better than that, and now is the time to prove it.
While there is no legal case against the Allens at this time, there are a number of serious instances of misconduct in office, malfeasance and a blatant refusal to explain or account for their actions to the people they are sworn to serve.
Just to be clear, while Charles Allen cannot be held responsible for any misbehavior of his wife in her capacity as tax commissioner, it is a pure conflict of interest for him to remain as a county commissioner while these matters are under consideration. That he is not bright enough to see that and act on his own may betray the arrogance the Allens have been accused of carrying throughout this entire debacle.
The Columbia County GOP has the organization and resources to facilitate and execute a recall drive better than anyone else. Not only that, but such an effort would go a long way in proving to the community that the trouble with the Allens is not indicative of the party, nor any of their past supporters. I have no idea if the Allens have broken any laws, but I believe with all my heart they have been shown to be two of the worst and most destructive elected officials in the county in at least the last 20 years.