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Hall County tax assessor agrees to leave of absence
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Hall County Board of Tax Assessors Chairman Emory Martin Jr. agreed Wednesday to take a leave of absence from his position, with pay and benefits, until the district attorney comes back with the results of his investigation into allegations of financial improprieties within the office.

According to Tom Oliver, Hall County Board of Commissioners chairman, Martin agreed to temporarily leave his position as tax assessors chairman after the board submits its 2008 tax digest to the state office.

Oliver said processing the year’s tax digest should take roughly 30 days, and all three board members, Martin, William Vaughan and Terrell Gaines, are needed to complete the process.

District Attorney Lee Darragh is currently investigating the Hall County Board of Tax Assessors because of allegations two retired county tax assessors office employees, James Cantrell and Lyman Martin, levied against the board in February.

Cantrell and Lyman Martin accused the chairman of improper holiday pay and padding his per diem time sheets to an amount of $66,100 in fraudulent expenses during a nine-year span.

"We’ve been working on an agreement with Emory since Monday," Oliver said. "He agreed to take a leave of absence until the DA reports his findings. Then we’ll take action based on those results."

Oliver added that the state Department of Revenue, not the Hall County Board of Commissioners, oversees the Hall County Board of Tax Assessors.

Commissioners said they would consider expanding the tax assessors board from its current three members to five members to create more oversight within the office.

In addition, Oliver said he hopes the commission will create a committee of constituents to "tweak the code of conduct we have" and establish a revised code of conduct for county employees that better addresses alleged misconduct.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners meeting will be held at 5 p.m. today and is temporarily relocated from its regular meeting place to the second floor of the Courthouse Annex Building on Spring Street.

The commission will consider appointing Randy Knighton and reappointing Tim Evans to the Lanier Joint Development Authority for Hall and Forsyth Counties. The commission will also consider reappointing the Rev. Mike Freeman as chairman of the Hall County Board of Family and Children Services. The refinancing of bonds for the Spout Springs sewage treatment facility will also be reviewed.

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