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January 22, 2014

County commission meeting heated over unpaid property taxes

MILLEDGEVILLE — A recent news article detailing two Baldwin County Commissioners are delinquent on 2013 property taxes created quite a stir Tuesday evening.

Commissioner Henry Craig, District 4, started the conversation during non-agenda item discussions at meeting's end.

“Last week, The Baldwin Bulletin made some ethical and legal challenges to this commission,” Craig said. “This commission cannot ignore those alleged instances. I propose we set up a committee to give us guidance as to how to deal with the allegations of 40 percent of this commission.”

The article alleged that Commissioner Tommy French, District 2, and Commissioner Emily Davis, District 1, failed to pay taxes on county properties owed by the Nov. 15, 2013 tax commissioner deadline.

Commission Chair Sammy Hall, District 3, said if someone fails to pay taxes the county tax commissioner would respond by selling the property or other action.

“I don't think there is anything that this commission can do when there are already things to take care of that issue,” Hall said. “It looks bad. I don't think a crime has been committed, and we can't enforce the law.”

County Attorney David McRee said unlike the City of Milledgeville the county lacks an ethics ordinance to pursue this situation.

“We as a body don't have control of this particular issue without there being an ethics ordinance,” McRee said Tuesday.

Craig said the elected board “should live by a higher standard.”

French responded to the tax related claims.

“Everybody in a perfect world can pay them on time, and I'm not going to tell you my situation because I will catch mine up,” he said. “I'll pay mine. You worry about yours.”

French cited an alleged email he perceived to be from Commissioner Johnny Westmoreland, District 5, which “pushed those issues.”

Westmoreland refuted saying his name wasn't on the email because it didn't come from him.

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