Some Atlanta lawmakers are demanding an investigation into the eligibility of the Fulton County Board of Assessor’s members, and at least one now former member isn’t happy about it.
State Senator Jen Jordan, an Atlanta Democrat, sent a letter to the Fulton County Commission in early June asking for the investigation.
“As you are aware, the issues with the Fulton County Board of Assessors have been ongoing for many years. The most recent failures of the BOA to get the tax digest approved by the Department of Revenue has significantly impacted the credibility of the BOA and frankly, the level of confidence that residents have in the accuracy of the assessments. Because of this, ensuring that the members of the Board of Assessors are qualified is more important than ever.”
Jordan’s letter said it came to her attention that three of the five board members may have had liens on their properties, but she wanted the county to conduct its own investigation to determine whether that was accurate.
She said, if true, those board members, who approve property values for hundreds of thousands of property owners, shouldn’t be allowed to serve.
“We need to make sure that when we're fighting for our constituents we know that, at a minimum, the people who are serving are eligible,” Jordan said.
Outgoing board member, R.J. Morris took exception to the letter, including an attachment of a lien he faced nearly 15 years ago.
"Investigating me and talking about a lien that was 14 years old from a house that I didn't even own when the lien came on there," Morris told Channel 2's Mike Petchenik, adding that a change to county ordinance last year allows board members to sit if they had previous liens that were paid off.
Morris said he believes Jordan’s motives are political.
“I was very upset because she gave her North Fulton County constituents a 3 ½ percent freeze and she wouldn’t do the same for the Atlanta constituents,” he said.
Morris said he’s gotten into shouting matches with the lawmaker.
Channel 2 Action News previously reported legislation that passed this past session will allow North Fulton homeowners to vote on a referendum to cap their county and school board taxes to minor increases year to year, while Atlanta lawmakers opted for a different path so that Atlanta Public Schools wouldn't be harmed by a hard and fast cap.
Morris also believes because he exposed the alleged overassessment of 18,000 homes in Fulton County that resulted in a class action lawsuit against the county, Jordan isn’t happy that if homeowners prevail, APS and other entities could lose millions in revenue.
In an email to Petchenik, Jordan denied retaliation against Morris:
“Mike - haven’t heard anything about this being a smear campaign,” she said. There is a question of the eligibility of certain BOA members and what a Fulton County ordinance requires or doesn’t require. This isn’t about any one person - it is about the people of Fulton County. Somehow that is lost in all of this.”
Morris opted not to be reappointed and attended his final board meeting Thursday.
“She talks about wanting to have me removed. Today’s my last day,” he quipped. “Where’s she gonna have me removed from, this planet?”
Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts said he has questioned the four board members who will remain on the panel this coming year and they’ve all assured him they do not currently have any property liens.
“The county attorney can investigate and find out for sure if what they’re telling me is accurate,” Pitts told Petchenik.
Chairman Pitts said the commission will look at changes to the county ordinance dealing with a Board of Assessor’s eligibility.
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