A local watchdog group focusing on the Hall County Board of Tax Assessors has gotten the county’s attention.
County Administrator Charley Nix said Friday that Mike Henderson, the county’s chief tax appraiser, will be on administrative leave until an investigation into the appraiser’s alleged property tax discrepancies can be conducted.
“At this stage of the game, what the assessors have asked me to do is look into this whole situation,” Nix said. “Mike Henderson has been placed on administrative leave pending this investigation.”
The Hall County Citizens for Efficient Government alleges that Henderson improperly received a homestead exemption and owes almost $900 in unpaid property taxes.
“Well at least it looks like they are doing something,” said Paul Barnes, president of the group, of the county’s action. “The three new members on that (tax assessors) board are willing to get the office straightened out. Things are looking up.”
The tax assessors board discussed the allegations against Henderson for two hours Friday during an executive session and asked Nix to conduct an internal investigation.
Nix said he will likely address the issue before the Hall County Board of Commissioners at its scheduled work session Monday.
Though the board of tax assessors ultimately holds authority over Henderson, Nix said he will make a recommendation to the board following an investigation.
“Our recommendation, of course, we hope would have some weight,” Nix said.
The homestead exemption was removed from Henderson’s property in November by Tax Assessors Board Chairman Terrell Gaines. Henderson is in the process of paying the county the money he owes. But Gaines did not alert the rest of the board about Henderson’s situation.
At Friday’s tax assessors’ board meeting, new members Victoria Cook and Whit Powell suggested procedural changes to the meetings in response to being kept in the dark about Henderson. Powell suggested adding two work sessions in addition to the two regular meetings the tax assessors hold every month.
“I feel like in work sessions that we could get a little deeper into the business of the tax assessors office,” Powell said.
Cook said she would like to use work sessions to look over things more thoroughly and discuss any issues before decisions are made at the business meetings.
“In that work session, I would like to be totally prepared first so we know exactly what we’re signing, and then exactly what it is, and have each one explained to us,” Cook said.
The two-hour executive session followed the board’s regular meeting.
“We’re certainly going to look into everything, personnel-wise,” Gaines said before the session began.
The board consulted Nix and county attorney Bill Blalock before recommending the investigation.
Henderson’s contract will expire at the end of the month, and the board of tax assessors will have to decide whether to renew it.