June 25, 2014 11:00:35 AM
Lowndes County Tax Assessor Greg Andrews has paid a $7,140 fine after an investigation by the state auditor's office revealed discrepancies in how Andrews' office handled property tax penalties.
Andrews said today he paid the fine on Monday afternoon from his personal checking account.
"My staff and myself, in 2009 and 2010, didn't charge penalties correctly or didn't charge them at all," Andrews said Wednesday. "I think since I'm in charge I need to take care of it myself and not penalize my staff."
Andrews said he is not sure how the errors occurred but said he would take full responsibility.
"I can't answer if employee A did charge or didn't or if I did or didn't, but I think since I'm in charge I take full responsibility for it," he said. "I can't say for sure if I did or they did. One of us did. But I take responsibility for my office and our actions."
Tuesday, Brett Kittredge, communication's director with the Office of State Auditor Stacey Pickering, confirmed the investigation, but declined to comment on the nature or scope of the inquiry.
Monday's fine marks the third time Andrews has been fined by a state office. The state Ethic's Commission has fined him twice before.
In 2009, Andrews was fined $15,000 after the Mississippi Ethics Commission determined he violated state ethics laws by using his position to benefit his wife, Alicia.
According to previously published reports, an investigation conducted by the Ethics Commission found Andrews employed his wife in the tax assessor and collector's office and recommended pay raises for her at least 11 of the last 12 years she worked in the office. Alicia Andrews resigned from the office in 2009 as a result of the investigation.
Mississippi's Ethics in Government Laws prohibit a government official from using his or her position to benefit a relative such as a spouse.
In 2006, Andrews was fined $1,600 after the Ethics Commission concluded he purchased land at tax sales held by his office. The investigation revealed Andrews had purchased four parcels of property at county tax sales, for which he received $263.55 in interest payments from the county, according to previously published reports.
Andrews has served as tax assessor since 1996.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
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