Valdosta Daily Times

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May 15, 2013

Tax commissioner’s SUV costs taxpayers $39,000

ATLANTA — Records show that a Georgia tax commissioner used public funds to buy a full-sized SUV for his own use.

The 2013 Ford Explorer Limited used by Fulton County Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand cost taxpayers $39,000, according to a report in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (http://bit.ly/YS9zDN ).

The newspaper reported that residents in the metro Atlanta county are funding Ferdinand’s daily commute to work, including gasoline. The purchase came to light when county commissioners raised questions about a routine take-home vehicle report.

Ferdinand did not respond to the Journal-Constitution’s phone messages or questions emailed to him Monday.

Ferdinand has been the focus of criticism in the past, some of it related to an annual income that exceeds that of Gov. Nathan Deal and approaches the pay for President Barack Obama.

A key factor behind his earnings is a charge of $1 per parcel in fees for doing the tax billing for Atlanta, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs — a practice state legislators have tried to halt. Ferdinand’s opponents say he is pocketing money for services done with county staff and equipment.

Criticism has intensified with the revelation of Ferdinand’s latest auto purchase.

“Greed is the only word I can think of,” Midtown resident Carol Brantley said. “Most people realize that Fulton County and all governments are struggling with their budgets and looking for ways to cut expenses, not ways to increase their personal incomes at the expense of taxpayers.”

But Commissioner Tom Lowe, a Republican who represents a portion of north Fulton, defended Ferdinand, a Democrat, as “a high-ranking department head” who “makes more money for the county than anybody else.”

“If he wants a car,” Lowe said, “I don’t give a damn whether it’s a go-kart or a Cadillac.”

Chairman John Eaves said Ferdinand has not explained to commissioners why he needs the SUV and it’s questionable whether it allows him to do a better job.

Eaves said Ferdinand should consider reassigning the SUV to an employee or department that can make better use of it.

“Given the budgetary constraints and the public’s expectations that we be as thrifty as possible,” Eaves said, “to me, this is an unnecessary expense.”

Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com

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