Earlier this year, Georgia News Daily published two articles about Tiffany Porter who was elected Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner in 2020.
Porter is the first Democrat elected to the office in recent memory, and as soon as she took office, she demonstrated the consequences of voters making poor choices. (Before being elected, Porter won the Democrat primary election over candidates many consider to be better qualified and more ethical.)
Porter is evidently trying to follow in the footsteps of Fulton County tax commissioner Arthur Ferdinand and decided she could participate in legal theft by charging Gwinnett’s cities for collecting their property taxes, a practice never instituted by her Republican predecessors. Under a poorly written state law, county tax commissioners are allowed to charge cities a fee that goes straight to their PERSONAL bank account for collecting city property taxes.
In so doing, Porter is using county resources for personal enrichment. If any other elected official attempted to do this, they would be indicted and most likely sent to jail, because such practices are illegal.
To put Porter’s money grab in perspective, Gwinnett’s former tax commissioner, Richard Steele, did not supplement his salary with additional tax collection fees from cities.
“My personal opinion is that I’m already adequately compensated by my salary. It’s the work of the office that has to be done because it takes this entire office to do the job. (Quote from AJC article.)
Late in this year’s session, the state legislature passed a bill giving the county commission the authority to set the terms for city property tax collection. Unfortunately, they didn’t include fees such as those assessed trash collection or stormwater.
The city of Grayson, which collects only property tax and does not charge any fees, opted to sign an agreement with the county Board of Commissioners to have the tax commissioner collect its taxes. Porter has refused unless Grayson pays her $2.00 per parcel for the service (in addition to a $1.80 per parcel fee that is paid to the county). That has resulted in Grayson filing a lawsuit against Porter, who has previously stated she feels “entitled” to what can only be considered attempted extortion, for doing her job.
In filing its lawsuit, Grayson is protecting its taxpayers who would ultimately foot the bill for Porter’s proposed charge. $2.00 parcel may seem insignificant, but when that is multiplied by approximately 5,000 parcels, it represents a $10,000 hit to the city’s budget.
Surprisingly, Kirkland Carden has been the only commissioner to speak out strongly and critically about Porter’s money grab. According to an Atlanta Journal Constitution article, Carden applauded the bill, saying it would prevent tax commissioners from using “their public office for personal gain.” We’ve heard that other commissioners have offered de facto approval of Porter’s money grab, stating, “it’s legal”.
It was in fact legal, although morally repulsive. But it may not be legal under the new legislation. The Grayson lawsuit, which will undoubtedly wind up at the state Supreme Court, should answer that question.
While that drama is playing out, the cities of Berkeley Lake, Dacula and Peachtree Corners have signed contracts with Porter. Those contracts will add approximately $34,000 to Porter’s salary of $141,000, which alone is more than the salary of the County’s commission chair.