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Hall County board reinstates chief tax appraiser

Tax assessors vote for reprimand, but let Mike Henderson keep his job

POSTED: December 30, 2008 12:18 a.m.

After holding a special called executive session Monday, the Hall County Board of Tax Assessors voted 3-2 to reinstate Mike Henderson as the county’s chief tax appraiser following an audit of his tax records.

Assessor Bobby Hulsey made the motion to reprimand Henderson and continue his employment with the county, which was approved by longtime assessors Terrell Gaines and Bill Vaughan.

That decision followed an unsuccessful motion by assessor Whit Powell to terminate Henderson’s contract.

Assessor Victoria Cook seconded his motion, but it failed to gain approval by the other members.

Henderson’s reprimand will come in the form of a letter placed in his personnel file.

Gaines, the chairman of the board, said he thinks the board made a good decision.

“I felt comfortable that (Henderson) could continue to do the job,” Gaines said.

Hulsey declined to comment because personnel matters discussed in an executive session are private. Attempts to reach Vaughan were unsuccessful.

Henderson was placed on administrative leave earlier this month after the board of assessors asked Hall County Administrator Charley Nix to conduct an investigation into allegations against Henderson.

The Hall County Citizens for Efficient Government, a local watchdog group, accused Henderson of owing nearly $900 in back taxes to the county and receiving a homestead tax exemption on a property where he did not live. The allegations prompted the county to hire an independent accounting firm to look into the matter.

Bates, Carter & Company investigated Henderson’s tax records and presented the findings to Hall County.
The Times obtained a copy of the report, which shows Henderson owes $890 to Hall County after the homestead exemption was removed and the value of his property was readjusted.

An evaluation of internal control systems in the tax assessors office also is under way and is expected to last one month.

Henderson has been fully reinstated to his position and was to return to work today.

He said earlier this month that he didn’t think his personal finances were a cause for concern.

“That’s more my personal finances, and I really don’t think that should be public information,” Henderson said. “When has anyone else been questioned about when they pay their bills?”

Paul Barnes, president of the Hall County Citizens for Efficient Government, said he is unhappy with the board’s decision.

“I think it’s ridiculous to retain someone who tried to cheat the county and lied about it,” Barnes said. “I don’t understand their thinking on that. They’re protecting a crook.”

Commissioner-elect Ashley Bell said he feels the vote the tax assessors board took Monday proves there is still work to be done in the tax assessors office.

“I just think this is another way of the good ol’ boy system perpetuating itself,” Bell said. “I am absolutely against the decision they came down with.”

Bell said he will continue to look into the tax assessors board when he takes office in January.
“All options are on the table at this point,” Bell said. “I think a vote of no confidence is in order.”

Bell served as lawyer for two former employees of the tax assessors office who blew the whistle on former tax assessors board chairman Emory Martin. Martin was accused of misappropriating around $60,000 from Hall County by padding time sheets.

Following an investigation, Martin resigned from the board in October after District Attorney Lee Darragh decided not to bring criminal charges against him.



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