When the Columbia County Commission sent Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal a letter last week asking him to look into alleged misconduct by Tax Commissioner Kay Allen, commissioners were nothing but direct.
In the letter dated Dec. 23, the commissioners wrote, “In October of this year, the Columbia County Commission was informed of a situation that involved the Tax Commissioner collecting fees from municipalities contrary to law. Specifically, we discovered Columbia County Tax Commissioner Kay K. Allen contracted with the cities of Grovetown and Harlem personally and collected a fee which she retained as personal compensation that should have been remitted to the county.”
The Columbia County commissioners laid everything out on the table in their letter to the governor.
“In 2013, this fee totaled $36,000 but since 2009 the monies exceed $160,000,” the letter stated. “Until this revelation, the commission had no knowledge of this arrangement and it was never reflected on any weekly or monthly reports she submitted.”
While Commission Chairman Ron Cross told the media last week that he was disappointed by the accusations against Allen, he acknowledged that the commission didn’t know the full story.
“It’s not something you want to see,” Cross said candidly on Dec. 23. “It happens from time to time. It may be a first in Columbia County, but then again, we don’t know the entire story. We’ve only seen one side. Two sides will come out.”
Cross said the letter to the governor neither “supports nor condemns the alleged conduct of the tax commissioner.”
But the commission’s letter to Deal was actually pretty straightforward.
It stated if the accusations against Allen are accurate, it is clearly in violation of a 2007 amendment to Georgia law which stated, “The governing authority, not the tax commissioner, may contract with municipalities to accept, receive and retain compensation if the county had more than 50,000 parcels.”
The board acknowledged that Columbia County met that threshold in 2009.
“While this had been the practice for many years, we understand that the Tax Commissioner was made aware of the change in law in 2007 at a state training conducted by the Georgia Department of Revenue,” the letter stated. “Notwithstanding this training, each year beyond 2009, allegedly she has collected these fees by preparing hand-written invoices that were delivered to the municipalities by her personally.”
Come on, Columbia County. When the tax commissioner is driving to surrounding cities and delivering her own mail that should have been a major red flag to someone, right?
“The checks for these fees were written to Columbia County Tax Commissioner attention Kay Allen, but were deposited into her personal account,” the letter to the governor stated. “Both municipalities assumed the payments to the Tax Commissioner were going to the governing authority according to law.”
The board informed the governor in the letter that the issues have been thoroughly investigated by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and that its file was turned over to Augusta Judicial Circuit District Attorney Ashley Wright on Dec. 20.
“We understand the matter is also being investigated by no less than two federal law enforcement agencies,” the letter stated.
Not just one, but two federal law enforcement agencies. So, it’s not just the FBI that has been reviewing Allen’s actions. That’s probably not a good thing for Mrs. Allen.
“Obviously the citizens of Columbia County are deeply concerned with this issue,” the Dec. 23 letter stated to Deal. “We greatly appreciate your review.”
The Columbia County Commission unanimously approved sending the governor the letter last month, with the exception of Commissioner Charles Allen Jr., who recused himself from voting because Kay Allen is his wife.
Following the release of the letter and Cross’ statement to the press, critics immediately came leaping out of the woodwork.
“Has anyone asked Ron Cross how he can actually say he does not condone or condemn these actions by Kay Allen?” one reader commented. “Ron Cross also should be held accountable for refusing to stick up for taxpayers and admit what she did was wrong. To be so nonchalant about it shows he only did what he felt was legally responsible and has no concerns for the public.”
Others turned their outrage towards Commissioner Charles Allen Jr.
“How can Charles Allen still serve as a commissioner while his wife is under investigation?” one reader asked. “They are one household. The checks she allegedly cashed likely benefitted the entire family. He should be forced to step down.”
There has been a lot of conversation the past few weeks about what Charles Allen may or may not have known. Many are giving Charles Allen the benefit of the doubt and implying that Kay Allen was the one who wears the pants in that family.
But, either way, if Kay Allen is found guilty of what she has been accused of doing, her actions should bring her husband down as well.
After all, it’s for better or worse, right?