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Auditor may investigate Hall tax assessors office

Gainesville firm tabbed for the work

POSTED: December 16, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Hall County Administrator Charley Nix recommended to county commissioners Monday that an independent auditor examine the entire tax assessors office in response to allegations presented last week against chief appraiser Mike Henderson.

Nix was invited to the tax assessors board’s executive session Friday to discuss allegations against Henderson. A local watchdog group, Hall County Citizens for Efficient Government, alleges Henderson owes back taxes to the county and had a homestead tax exemption on a home he did not live in, among other things.

The assessors, who oversee Henderson, asked Nix to investigate the matter. Nix recommended Monday that Bates Carter & Co., a Gainesville accounting firm, conduct the investigation.

"It needs to be professional and thorough," Nix said during the commission’s work session.

He also thought a fresh perspective outside the government would be beneficial.

"It’s kind of important for an independent agency to look at it," Nix said.

The board of commissioners will vote at Thursday’s meeting about the outside audit, but Nix thinks most are in favor of some sort of investigation.

"It does seem to be something they’re supporting," Nix said.

Commissioner Steve Gailey said he thinks the investigation is a good idea.

"We’re heading into a direction we probably need to be heading into," Gailey said.

Gailey thinks it’s wise to investigate the entire office, including past employees.

"I think you got to look back, at least when all the trouble started and why it started," Gailey said.

Commissioner Bobby Banks said he thinks an independent investigation will help restore public trust in the office.

"I’m all for the independent investigation," Banks said. " Until we make some changes, we’ll have a cloud over the tax assessors office."

Nix said he has yet to hear from Bates Carter & Co. how much the assessment of the office would cost or how long it would take.

Though the idea for the investigation was spurred by allegations against the chief appraiser, Nix said there are a few other things that can be cleared up.

"There’s been a lot questioning of folks about the internal policies and procedures" of the tax assessors office, Nix said.

The particular objectives for the investigation have not yet been set. The tax assessors board has the authority to decide whether or not to renew Henderson’s contract.



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