Panel votes 6-0 to cut tax chief’s pay

The Fulton County Commission wants to give the state’s highest-paid elected official a pay cut – something frequently attempted, but never done.

Since 2011, Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand has been personally profiting off his controversial tax collection system, using an old state law to earn 50 cents every time a collection company buys a tax debt or a delinquent taxpayer pays off a lien. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution exposed the arrangement in August.

Ferdinand has been pocketing roughly $22,000 to $31,000 extra per year from the lien fees, boosting his pay last year to about $383,000 for a job where he started out earning $77,400 in 1997.

The deal came about quietly, without county commissioners’ knowledge. Commissioner Emma Darnell, an Atlanta Democrat, introduced a resolution at Wednesday’s meeting asking state lawmakers to cut off the 50-cent fees during next year’s legislative session. The measure also asks Ferdinand to give up the practice on his own.

The commission approved the resolution 6-0.

“Is it fair that a taxpayer already struggling to pay their taxes would also be required to pay the Tax Commissioner 50 cents for transferring his tax bill to an outside agency for collection? I don’t think so,” Darnell said in a written statement. “There is a big difference between adequate compensation and citizen exploitation and we urge the Georgia Legislature and the Tax Commissioner of Fulton County to acknowledge the difference.”