Since coming on board with semi-new Trustee John Duncan III in early September, the office’s attorney and now No. 1 phone solicitor has collected $5,897,655 as of late February.
(No word yet on whether the former Knox County Republican Party chairman is going after fellow GOP-mates or just beating up on broke-a$$ Democrats.)
During the same time frame – from September 2009 through February 2010 – local law firm Hodges, Doughty & Carson brought in $3,195,257.
Now, I have to tell you, when Duncan and Tindell first met with me back in August to say that the office would no longer outsource this job, I was somewhat skeptical. (I still am by the way, because the glass is never half full.)
At the time, the dynamic duo said they’d save the county $250,000.
That’s because Albert Harb’s firm has overseen the process since 1994 and kept a percentage of the collections as a fee - about $300,000 a year.
And Harb was a good collector.
Duncan said he was hiring Tindell for $106,905 – a $1 less than what he earns (there’s no way King Trustee is letting one of his minions get more coin) – to call people, collect scratch and file lawsuits.
Under the past process, the county charged a delinquent taxpayer $10 for every $100 the person owed. That money - typically $300,000 a year, but as much as (well, I don’t know – a lot) went to the actual collector. Under the new/current plan, the county still charges the surplus fee, but the money now will go into the county's general fund.
Here’s some more information for the number nerds:
- From July 2009 through June 2010, the office collected $8,210,0001 in delinquent taxes.
- From July 2010 through February 2011 (which includes some months that Harb worked), the office has collected $8,009,329.
Duncan said that in addition to cracking the whip on Tindell, he expects the office to bring in even more money when it has the Big Auction - or as the money-grabbers like to call it, the "right of rescission"sale - sometime in the spring.
That's where the county sells property that has back-taxes owed on it, but still gives the original owner a year to buy it back for the sale price.
On a side note, local leaders actually debated for years whether using a collections attorney outside the trustee's office was the most efficient way to collect taxes. Duncan’s predecessor, Fred Sisk, long-defended Harb and the practice, saying no other lawyer had the expertise to collect delinquent taxes at the same rate.
Right now, it looks like Tindell is a bargain. But I suck at math, so who knows.
I was going to ask Tindell, who chaired the Knox County GOP in 2003-04, about it, but he’s on vacation, Duncan said.
Maybe he’s enjoying Spring Break with the judges.