Collector Loses Bid on 'Fees' High Court Rejects Tag Commissions

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- The Georgia Supreme Court ruled 7-0 this week that Liberty County's tax collector can't take a commission out of every car tag sold and property taxed.

Tax Commissioner Carolyn Brown pocketed what some estimate at $2 million between her election in 1993 and 1998. A judge still must determine the exact amount, but the County Commission is looking for her to repay the money.

But Brown argued that a law affecting just Liberty County gives her permission to collect fees to supplement her salary from the county. A later statewide law stopping collection of the fee, she argued, doesn't apply to her and is unconstitutionally vague.

The high court didn't agree. It ruled in favor of the county that the statewide law does apply to her and is sufficiently clear.

"We cannot call its provisions meaningless or contradictory," wrote Justice George Carley in an opinion handed down Monday.

Brown has until Oct. 28 to ask the justices to reconsider their decision.

If she doesn't make the request or they turn her down, the case goes back before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Joel Fryer to decide how much she must repay. He will also decide if the county should pay her legal bills.

Fryer is trying the case because Liberty County judges removed themselves to avoid a conflict of interest. …


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