The Columbia County Board of Commissioners decided late last week that it had waited as long as possible for Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal or federal law enforcement officials to take action regarding the allegations against Tax Commissioner Kay Allen.
It was time for commissioners to act.
During a special called meeting on Feb. 21, Columbia County Commissioner Trey Allen made a motion requesting attorneys representing the county to move forward with efforts to recover any monies that Kay Allen may have “wrongfully withheld.”
For the past few months, the FBI has been conducting a joint investigation with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office to find out whether Kay Allen has been improperly profiting from contracts collecting taxes for Harlem and Grovetown.
“We have waited as long as possible on other bodies to act and I think at this point it is imperative that we proceed to try to move on and do the people’s business,” Trey Allen told his colleagues. “This issue is a cloud over our county. I would just hope that the tax commissioner and all parties involved will do what is right and the people of this county can move on and remove this cloud.”
Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross agreed, adding that there has been a great deal of speculation and conversation regarding the powers of the county commission as it relates to the allegations against Kay Allen.
“As an elected official, Mrs. Allen answers only to the electorate,” Cross said. “Additionally, as a constitutional officer, she has certain powers, but they all are closely related to the office she holds. Beyond the powers assigned to her and to other constitutional officers, the board of commissioners is the county’s governing authority by law.”
The board of commissioners has the power to adopt ordinances, resolutions and regulations relating to county property and it is responsible for the total operations of the county government, Cross explained.
“To this end, it is the board of commissioners that has the ultimate responsibility of assuring the affairs of the county are properly conducted,” he said.
Ever since being made aware of the allegations against Kay Allen, Cross insisted that the board of commissioners has “done its job.”
“First, we notified the sheriff as the county’s chief law enforcement officer to complete an investigation into any alleged wrongdoings,” Cross said. “As directed by law, we also notified the governor’s office so proper administrative proceedings could begin.”
Commissioners have also fully cooperated with all local and federal law enforcement agencies as well as the district attorney as these investigations continue, he stated.
“We have called for and received a draft of a full audit of the tax commissioner’s office,” Cross said. “Details of that audit are forthcoming and we will take the necessary action depending on its outcome.”
As far as when and if the governor or law enforcement will act on the issues surrounding Kay Allen, Cross said that is still unknown.
“The time has long passed for a resolution in this matter,” Cross said. “It is the opinion of this body that Mrs. Allen’s actions have compromised her ability to effectively serve the citizens of the county. In the best interest of our citizens, the county has retained counsel to explore its options regarding filing an action against Tax Commissioner Allen to recover any money she may have wrongly withheld.”
Several of the commissioners said they took “no pleasure” in pursuing possible legal action against Kay Allen, but they felt they had no other option.
After a meeting earlier that day between Kay Allen’s attorney, Douglas Chalmers Jr., and attorneys representing the county, Cross said the two parties are at a crossroads.
“I will, as a matter of information, say that the meeting that was held today with our attorneys present and one of the attorneys of the other party did not yield any fruitful results,” Cross said. “We are diametrically opposed to each other on several issues that will have to be resolved at a later date.”
Columbia County commissioners voted 4-0 to have attorneys representing the county recover any “wrongfully withheld” funds from Kay Allen.
Columbia County Commissioner Charles Allen Jr., Kay Allen’s husband, was not present for the vote.
Following the vote, Trey Allen said that he also believed Kay Allen should step down from her position as tax commissioner.
“In my opinion, the position that we find ourselves dealing with in this situation and the seriousness of the allegations, again in my opinion, I think it resulted in the loss of public confidence in the office of the tax commissioner,” Trey Allen said. “And I think it is appropriate at this time for the tax commissioner to step aside from her official duties.”
The other commissioners agreed, but no formal vote was taken on the matter.
In Kay Allen’s defense, Chalmers wrote in a prepared statement that he plans to defend the tax commissioner to the “full extend of the law.”