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Comm. Hill and former assessor Joan Bell team up to delay assessors appointments.

Taxpayer's Watchdog Group, Inc.

December 20, 2005

 

Comm. Hill and former assessor Joan Bell team up to delay Assessors appointments

Comm. Hill and Joan Bell put on a tag-team show at the BOC meeting Monday night.  Joan Bell came into the meeting room and immediately went to huddle with Comm. Hill.  After the meeting started, Mrs. Bell spoke during Agenda Comments.  During her comments she made the following remarks—

Joan Bell—I never thought I’d agree with Cathy Benson [who had spoken previously during comments about the BOA], but we do need a legally qualified board.  Being certified has to do with State codes.  There are plenty of people that can be certified

[During her comments she implied that Mrs. Benson was not on the BOA legally, even though Mrs. Benson has met all the requirements, including being sworn in, attending the 40 hour class, passing the test, and serving for almost an entire year.  Mrs. Bell gave no FACTS, no evidence, just innuendo.]  Mrs. Bell proceeded stating she wasn’t campaigning for the job, but that Mary Patrick is campaigning because she sees emails all over the place.  [This will be discussed later in this email, including a copy of the letter Mary Patrick sent to the BOC.] Mrs. Bell continued asking that the BOC take some time to consider who they appoint.  She then went on to criticize Brac Bohanon and said, “We’ve never had a digest on time since Brac Bohanon had been Chief—either the first time or this time.”  [Mrs. Bell failed to bring up the fact that while she was on the BOA, the digest were in the low 30’s and even as low as 29 while the State requires 38-42.  She also failed to mention all the fines and penalties the county paid while she served on the BOA.] Then Mrs. Bell made the revelation that, “The courts never removed me.  The BOC removed me.” [We guess that day spent in court a couple of years ago with Mrs. Bell and her TWO lawyers was just a bad dream—one that cost the taxpayers over $20,000.] 

 

Next in this orchestrated show, came Comm. Hill during the Agenda Item -Board of Assessors—reduce to 3 members—

Attorney John Nix had presented a resolution to reduce the number of members on the BOA.  He said the County was in this position because 4 of 5 members have submitted their resignations.  Then he said the issue has been raised if the one left has legal standing.  He suggested that the BOC not change anything until he could research this and revisit the issue in January.  Nix says wait one meeting.  We will review and see if Mrs. Benson is valid/legal.  He didn’t want the BOC to formally accept any resignations.  Then Comm. Hill spoke up.  He bragged that he had brought this issue up.  [He didn’t present any reasons, any facts, or any evidence.  Again, just more hype.]  Mr. Nix said we will have a legal opinion before Jan.  The BOC then voted to defer the issue until 1st meeting in Jan.  4-0.

 

During General Comments, both Mary Patrick and Cathy Benson got to have “their say” about Comm. Hill and Joan Bell’s attempts to make an issue of something no one else seemed to know about.  First, Mary Patrick got up and said she thought that if you were interested in serving on a Board you were supposed to submit a letter to the BOC. [A copy of her letter follows at the end of this email.]  She said, “If you call that campaigning, I guess that is what I have done.”  [Mrs. Bell interjected from her seat, “That’s right.”] Mrs. Patrick went on to say she had faxed the letter to the BOC and also emailed it to each Commissioner.  She asked Comm. Hill how was it that he decided it was his duty to spread it “all over the county”?  Comm. Hill replied that she had only sent it to 3 commissioners.  Mrs. Patrick replied she had sent it to all the commissioners, and how would he know who she emailed it to?  She also said it was open record to anyone that was interested in reading it, so why did he try to make a big deal of it? She then questioned his timing in questioning the legality of Mrs. Benson's standing when he never questions others--especially those he appoints that don't attend classes, can't pass tests, and don't become certified?  He didn’t answer this, but again said he thought she should have sent her email to all the BOC, which she again said she had.  [At this time Comm. Bernard said he had gotten a hard copy of the letter and told everyone that he wished more people would request to be put on boards.  If people don’t let us know we don’t know they want to serve. He said he appreciated it.]  Mrs. Patrick proceeded in stating she also felt Brac Bohanon was severely overpaid for the job that was being done in the BOA office.

 

[TWG Comment: These shenanigans of Comm. Hill have happened for years. He has delayed appointments to the BOA in several instances.  He has also appointed several people that have never become certified but have cost the taxpayers plenty at their attempts to do so. Let us give you and example--in 1998, Mr. Hill recommended and had Brenda Aiken appointed.  She took the tests, never passed, but sat on the board for over a year and served as a LEGAL assessor by voting and otherwise participating on the Board.

 

Doesn’t it seems strange Comm. Hill has waited until Mrs. Benson found problems in the office (very few boats on the digest) and then all of a sudden questions her “legal standing?” Who is Comm. Hill attempting to protect with his “new revelations?”  Comm. Hill has long been an antagonist in trying to correct the problems with the BOA.  Comm. Hill antagonized Mr. Harrell continually and implied all sorts of things.  He never wanted to approve anything brought before the board by Mr. Harrell. Mr. Harrell asked Comm. Hill at one meeting just what his problem was.]

 

At the end of the General Comments, Mrs. Benson spoke (after several requests for budget increases). 

Cathy Benson-–Everyone is talking about money.  Since 12/8/05 I have had several telephone calls back and forth with John Nix, Brac, and myself about being able to sign the Utilities Digest.  Since Comm. Hill and Joan Bell have brought up my legality, I will not sign the utilities digest.  I’ve been told that tomorrow is last day.  I don’t know how much money you’ll lose, but I will not sign it.  [The public utilities include AT&T, Georgia Power, the Railroads, etc.  They pay taxes through the Utilities Digest assessments.  Since there is no board, the board can’t meet to approve this digest or to sign it and submit it to the State, which means that the county will not only lose money on the delay in collections, but it is our understanding, there are other problems the  county can have because of it, including the amount that the utilities have to pay.] Mrs. Benson continued, “I am my own person.  No one sways me or my vote.  I vote according to what I think and according to what the law says.”

 

[TWG Comment:  Comm. Hill’s politics and personal agenda continue to cost the taxpayers money.  He has been instrumental in keeping the Assessors office as the mediocre office it is and has been for years.   He would rather question the legal standing of an assessor than to do something about the real problems in the assessors’ office. By using his usual delay tactics, the County might not be able to collect the taxes from the public utilities until a later than expected date.  Of course, money problems don’t seem to affect Comm. Hill.  He was part of the board that overspent almost $900,000 in 2004 and still doesn’t believe it happened.

 

There is also the problem of getting people certified.  The BOC should always send people to school to be certified BEFORE they are appointed to the board.  This prevents problems that have happened in the past—such as Ms. Tinsley and Mr. Kelly who were appointed last January but never became certified and couldn’t serve.  By them being appointed, the BOC could not put anyone else in their place until they resigned.  By having people attend classes first and pass the test, the BOC would always have someone certified they could appoint.  They’ve all been told this several times by the TWG members, but maybe someday soon it will sink in. 

 

As it stands now, the next available class for BOA certification will be in June 2006.  There won’t be a sitting board until sometime after that—if people are eligible.  It could be as late as August before a BOA can sit and do what they are supposed to do—go over the digest, review appeals and Homestead Exemptions, and approve the digest so tax bills can be generated.  Without a board until August, it could be as late as the Summer of 2007 before 2006 taxes can be collected.  How much will this cost the county?  The county will probably have to borrow money because of this “new problem” that Comm. Hill has admitted to “bringing up”.  This type of interference is the exact reason people don’t want to serve on boards and the county has the same people serving on everything. 

 

After talking with one commissioner, we have found that 2 people have asked to be considered for the board.  Yet, there are commissioners busy playing politics and trying to find people to go along with “their agenda”.  Guess what?  There is no agenda for the BOA.  They must follow the law—in assessments, conservation, homestead exemptions, etc.  As the clock ticks, the delay costs each taxpayer more money—fines, penalties, late collection of taxes, etc. 

(We encourage Comm. Hill and all of you to forward this to everyone on your email list.)

 

TWG

 

Following is the letter sent by Mary Patrick to the BOC stating she’d be willing to serve on the BOA. 

 

 

December 9, 2005

 

Jasper County Board of Commissioners

Mr. Greg Williams, County Manager

Jasper County Courthouse

Monticello, GA 31064

 

Gentlemen:

 

I would like to be considered for one of the vacant positions of Tax Assessor.  I fully meet the qualifications and have checked with the Georgia Dep’t of Revenue as to what I must do to be certified.

 

According to Sha Hester of the Dep’t of Revenue, I could take the test to be certified in January, 2006 without having to take the 40 hour course.  This would save the County several hundred dollars by my not having to be paid for 5 days of classes, hotel, meals, etc.

 

For over 15 years I have followed the activity in the Board of Assessors. 

For the last 5 years I have kept close tabs on the Board of Assessors and

have learned the laws, rules, and requirements of the assessors, appraisers,

tax digest, etc.  I have been very concerned as to how many times our county has had to pay fines for being late and/or having deficient digests. 

 

I feel I could serve Jasper County as a Tax Assessor, and I would appreciate your consideration in being appointed to the board.  Please note: The certification regulations state that you shall not be appointed to serve before you are certified.  With your permission, I could be certified in January, 2006 and the Board of Assessors could start functioning again.

 

Sincerely,

 

Mary P. Patrick         

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