The Columbia County Sheriff's Office and FBI are looking into whether Kay Allen was pocketing tax money from Grovetown and Harlem for personal use. That's something state law allows in counties with fewer than 50,000 parcels, but Columbia County has more parcels than that.
County commissioners haven't said much about the investigation, but Tuesday night, they did approve a full audit of the Tax Commissioner's Office. And now, city leaders from Grovetown and Harlem are responding to the situation.
The cities of Grovetown and Harlem have had agreements with the tax commissioner's office for several years now, but officials from both cities say they had no idea the tax commissioner was receiving two percent of billed property taxes.
According to state law, tax commissioners can personally receive a 2% cut of all property taxes billed by cities, but that law no longer applies to Columbia County because it has grown so much. Grovetown Mayor George James say the city has had an agreement with the Tax Commissioner's Office to collect city property taxes since 1993.
"The Tax Commissioner's Office collects that money and then they send it to the city. And then they send is an invoice for two percent of what they collect. And then we write a check and give them two percent of the money they collected," James said.
The city of Harlem has a similar agreement with the Tax Commissioner's Office, however, officials from both cities say they thought the 2% cut was going to the county budget.
"As far as we knew, we had no knowledge of this law that lets the tax commissioner collect the funds and use it for their income. We weren't aware of any of that," James said.
We have reached out to the Columbia County Tax Commissioner several times and she has yet to respond to our phone calls.
County officials say the investigation could be finished by the end of the week, but for now, Grovetown will continue on, business as usual.
"They collected our money. They paid us the money. We paid the bill. That is the way we have been doing it for a long time," James said.
According to an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Fulton County Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand took in $347,000 last year because he collects personal fees from three cities.
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