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Hall County commissioner wants minority appointed to board of tax assessors

POSTED: February 2, 2009 10:52 p.m.

Following last week’s retirement of longtime tax assessor Bill Vaughan, Hall County Commissioner Ashley Bell said he is hoping to diversify the board of tax assessors.

Bill Vaughan resigned from the Hall County Board of Tax Assessors after 13 years of service.

Bell said the board of tax assessors is one of the only Hall County boards that has never had a minority member.

"This is a board that traditionally has been three males that serve very lengthy time periods," Bell said.

"Vicki Cook was the first woman to ever sit on this board and she was just appointed three months ago. It’s probably the only board we had that had never had a woman or a minority sit on it at this date," Bell said.

The board will vote to appoint a new member at its Feb. 12 meeting and Bell said he has someone in mind, Belinda Lipscomb, one of his constituents.

"Mr. Vaughan was the only member of the tax assessors board that lived within the city of Gainesville. That being primarily where my commission district is, I feel it’s imperative we have at least one person in the tax assessors office that is first off from the city of Gainesville. Gainesville makes up a big part of the work that is done by that office and it’s a joint department," Bell said.

Bell said he is interested in adding someone to the board who is not only qualified but will bring a fresh perspective.

"Ms. Belinda Lipscomb would actually be the first minority appointed to this board," Bell said. "Belinda was someone that came recommended from city officials. Belinda has served in various capacities on many boards for the city of Gainesville."

Bell said Lipscomb’s background as a Realtor and familiarity with property values will also be beneficial to the county.

Vaughan’s decision to resign from the board was not a sudden one. He said he has been thinking of retiring from the board for some time.

"I’ve been on it 13 years, I figure it’s about time," Vaughan said. "It’s time to quit. I’m 80 years old."

Vaughan will end his service on the board March 1.

He said he is glad he was able to work in the tax assessors office for so long.

"I’m not as good help as I once was, so I just thought I’d take it easy a while," Vaughan said Friday. "I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. They’re some of the nicest people in the world."

Vaughan was one of three assessors, including former board Chairman Emory Martin and Terrell Gaines, who were under a GBI investigation for misappropriating county funds through holiday and per diem pay.

Vaughan and Gaines have denied any wrongdoing.

Paul Barnes, president of the Hall County Citizens for Efficient Government, said he is looking forward to the change of guard on the tax assessors board.

Following the controversy surrounding the office, the citizens group asked for remaining tax assessors Gaines and Vaughan to resign.

"We have more work to do but I think this is a step in the right direction," Barnes said. "I’m surely pleased that he’s stepped down and I’d like to see someone appointed to that board that’s interested in restoring tax payer confidence."

Bell said he does not want the recent controversy swirling around the tax assessors office to taint Vaughan’s career with the county.

"He was able to receive a lot of accolades as a tax assessor and there were some very good days in the tax assessors office and a lot of good things were done to handle the very fast growth this county has seen," Bell said. "He was part of handling that growth and making sure the tax digest was always put out on time and available for cities and the counties to have and use to formulate their millage rate. And I think the episode we saw with the per diem pay and some of the most recent issues just seem to be a blip on the screen of unfortunate activity that happened in the twilight of his career."

Gaines, a 16-year veteran on the board of tax assessors, said he will miss Vaughan but expected his retirement.

"Bill and I worked together for 13 years. It was a good working relationship," Gaines said. "Bill’s got a good level head on his shoulders and I felt he always made good decisions. I found him to be an honest and upright person and I respected his opinion."


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