My little town...again..

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by CRC, Jul 9, 2006.

  1. CRC

    CRC Survivor of Tidal Waves | RIP 7-24-2015 Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    and the sheer stupidity ..

    [SIZE=+1]Records mess creates identity theft concern[/SIZE]
    By Benjamin Price, News-Leader
    Vandalism at the 14th Street County Annex Building has sparked concerns about identity theft.
    Copies of local residents' driver's licenses, Social Security cards, birth certificates and other personal information were found strewn about the floor of the annex, Interim Tax Collector John Drew confirmed. <TABLE cellSpacing=6 cellPadding=0 width=110 align=right border=0><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=top>[​IMG]
    "I would consider that the most sensitive information by far," Drew said. "What makes me upset is potential identity theft based on samples we've found on the floor, mixed with broken glass and debris."
    The now vacant building formerly served as offices for various county constitutional officers, including the tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections and board of county commissioners.
    After the building was vandalized repeatedly in recent weeks, it was learned it still contained thousands of county records. Drew confirmed some of those records contain personal and potentially sensitive information.
    Three Fernandina Beach teenagers have been arrested in the break-in and face charges of felony burglary.
    Drew said two tax office employees are working full-time to take an inventory of what was stored in the building. Most of the documents belonged to the tax collector, he said, but other constitutional offices also had property and records in the building.
    Drew and other county officials met Thursday afternoon at the building to take a closer look at the damage and determine how to proceed.
    The Nassau County Sheriff's Office is continuing its investigation of the break-in. However, no state or federal agencies appear to be investigating possible records mismanagement.
    Drew said no other agency has contacted him over concerns about the recordkeeping of former tax collector Gwen Miller. Citing health reasons, Miller resigned in April after nearly 30 years in office.
    In addition to thousands of documents left in unmarked boxes at the annex, there are unmarked boxes containing years of county tax records stored in closets and storage facilities at the governmental complex in Yulee.
    "No other agency has contacted me with questions about records management or the collection of tangible personal property taxes," Drew said.
    Drew was referring to Miller's decision to not collect delinquent tangible property taxes for many years. Florida law requires that taxes be assessed on "tangible property" - including all equipment and non-retail inventory - of every business.
    While Miller's office assessed the tangible property taxes each year, it did not pursue delinquent bills because, she has said, it would in some cases be more expensive to collect the delinquent taxes than the amount to be retrieved.
    The tax office now estimates that added up to about $4 million in uncollected taxes over the past 10 years.
    Assistant state attorneys Doc Burgess and Steve Seigel said Friday the State Attorney's Office has not been directed to look into the matter.
    Burgess said he knows of no pending complaints involving Miller or the tax office, and confirmed there's no active or requested grand jury investigation.
    "Nobody's requested it and nobody's brought information to justify it," he said.
    A spokesperson for the Department of Revenue said it does not have oversight over local tax collector's offices in cases of uncollected taxes.
    "We provide technical assistance and training but no specific responsibility of oversight," Renee Watters said.
    Drew said it's unclear what records the tax office has kept over the years, what records were destroyed and if there are records the office should have destroyed.
    Florida's tax collector records schedule determines how long the tax office is required to keep certain records. For example, the schedule mandates a record of unpaid intangible taxes must be kept permanently, redemption of tax certificates must be kept 20 years, as well as real estate and personal property tax receipts.
    There are pages and pages of these schedules, for every variety of tax collected and recorded by the office.
    However, a spokesperson for the Department of State, which creates the schedules, said they are not considered law because they're not set by official state statute.
    Drew said his office is now working with the Department of State's archive division to determine which records should be kept and which should be destroyed.
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