It looks like she knew the vagaries of the law enough to get away with it. Either that, or former Columbia County Tax Commissioner Kay Allen just got lucky.
Phone conversations with local investigators this week, and an email from the District Attorney, confirmed what I already knew: there will be no state or local prosecution for any possible wrongdoing involved in the infamous “personal billing” scheme Allen used to pocket money she collected for “services rendered” from the cities of Harlem and Grovetown. Money that, by most accounts, should have gone straight back to the county taxpayers who provided the infrastructure of the tax commissioner’s office.
No need to rehash the whole thing, but the excuse that Allen used as a “loophole” to explain her “mistake” (after changes in state law forbidding the once commonplace practice) was apparently good enough to confound any attempts to prosecute her for theft.
Trust me, I am not defending the law, Allen or the decision not to prosecute, but I certainly understand the decision and the explanation that went with it. The fact that she turned over $80,000 to the county as a “settlement” of any civil court attempts to go after her still leaves a lot of questions unanswered, as did the resignation of her husband Charles from the county commission, to avoid further complaints of possible conflict of interest.
Of course, the feds have also looked at the matter, and while it is possible there could be some kind of conspiracy charges if in fact it was proven that the Allens worked together to defraud the county, or otherwise break the law, that seems a bit far-fetched at this late date.
For those claiming that the Allens were the beneficiary of some grand political cover-up, do tell, which politicians are we to blame? The Republicans who control law enforcement in her home county, or the Democrats who control the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office?
While some might be convinced that the hometown party gave her the “family discount” and cut her a break on prosecution, you would have to be insane if you believe the Democrats would not be dragging the Allen name through the mud at every possible turn if they could, given the fact that her brother-in-law with the same last name is about to give Congressman John Barrow the fight of his political life.
The local and state authorities say no and the feds are saying nothing, which at this stage of the game means no.
Since she and her husband reportedly settled up with the IRS before they came to her looking for unpaid taxes on income they didn’t know even existed, there will be no evasion charges. Lord knows how much in interest and penalties she paid for seven years of the “side money” that they reportedly never declared. Add that to the 80 grand they already paid out to the county, and I bet her check writing hand was sore for the next month. But at least there was no jail.
Simply put, she won.
But she did not get out clean. The forever proud and long-serving politician did not go out with dinners and parties, she went out with suspicion, disdain and disgust. The lady cannot appear in public without her neighbors scoffing and whispering, and no doubt the scandal will be retold in print and broadcast the same day her obituary eventually runs in The Columbia County News-Times.
We need to learn from this situation, and draft a new financial disclosure law that will punish any elected official who gets caught using loopholes or feigning ignorance, while lining their pockets.
The Kay Allen Law would require all elected officials in the state of Georgia to file a complete record of all yearly income, and the sources of that income, with the Secretary of State. Failure to list all required information shall be a felony, which among other things, will trigger an immediate removal office for the offending politician.
If such a law had been in place, Allen would have had to chose to either give up the hefty sums she was collecting on the side or declare them, pay proper taxes on the loot and, of course, take the political heat for such an undeserved windfall. A side benefit to such a measure would also come from those found to be taking bribes or other gratuities without proper public disclosure. Bribes and gratuities are income and, if not declared, the result is a felony.
Wouldn’t it be fun to see what additional income a few sheriffs have coming in, or the value of free football, concert and golf tickets given to all elected officials?
I spoke with State Representative Barry Fleming about this, and he was intrigued. He did strive to make the point that the “loopholes” apparently exploited by Allen had been closed, but still, why not give the people a hard and fast rule with which we can hold all politicians equally accountable?
Kay Allen once wanted to be honored for her service to the county, I believe this is a great way to do it.