|San Jacinto News Times - Local News
Copyright 2013 - Polk County Publishing Company
Will new tax collector be able to serve?
COLDSPRING – Although she’s taken an oath of office to serve and protect, newly elected San Jacinto County Tax Assessor-Collector Kelly Selmer will not be able to take over duties of the office until she can obtain a bond that the county will accept and as of Monday, Jan. 7, that hasn’t happened. Weeks before being sworn in to office on Jan. 1 along with other newly elected officials, Selmer was attempting to get a bonding agency obtain an underwriter to bond her for $100,000. Although one company agreed to issue a bond to Selmer for more than $9,000, it was rejected by San Jacinto County Auditor Carole Martin because it was nearly fivetimes higher than the average amount paid by the county in the past. “Public official bonds provide a financial guarantee that public officials will handle funds and other assigned responsibilities with integrity. The bond requirement is typically put in place to deter individuals with troubled financial pasts from running for office, as the inability to manage personal or professional funds in the past can indicate how an individual might conduct business while in office,” states a publication called Surety Bonds Insider. Typical questions asked on applications for bonds include: Have you had any lawsuits or judgments against you; have you ever failed in business or declared bankruptcy; have you ever been convicted of a crime; have you ever been subject to any legal or administrative proceedings resulting in disciplinary action; have you ever been party to a surety bond claim? While other newly elected county officials are scheduled to have their bonds approved by San Jacinto County Commissioners’ Court Tuesday, Jan. 8, during a regular meeting of court, it is unsure if Selmer will be included. Part of Selmer’s job is to collect tax money for both of San Jacinto County’s public school districts and for the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. Bonds for those entities have been obtained by Selmer; however, she has not been able to obtain a “reasonably” priced bond from an underwriter the county feels comfortable with, said Martin. Martin said she did not accept the bond for more than $9,000 because of the elevated price and because she also had reservations about the credibility of the company underwriting the bond. While her recommendation was not to accept the bond offer, the final decision lies with commissioners’ court. They can choose to approve a lower amount or pay the full amount of over $9,000 for Selmer. Another option for Selmer would be for the county to pay up to $2,000 and Selmer could pay the remaining amount. The bond for former San Jacinto County Tax Assessor- Collector Betty Davis was $1,700 for her term of office. Normally public official bonds are written for the official’s term of office, but according to some county officials, in Selmer’s case that could be for one year only. If it is for one year only, Selmer’s bond total could be more than $36,000 for her four-year term of office. “The law gives Selmer a reasonable amount of time to obtain a reasonable bond,” Martin said. “Reasonable,” is determined by San Jacinto County Commissioners’ Court, according to Martin. If Selmer fails to get a bond within that “reasonable” amount of time, she could fail to qualify as a candidate, according to Martin. Until the bond issue is settled, Betty Davis, who lost her bid for reelection, will continue the term of office as provided by law, although she has already started a job as deputy chief in the Polk County Tax office. According to Martin, Davis has agreed to come into the county office and work evenings and weekends during January. Martin added that Selmer will not be paid as tax assessor-collector until she is bonded and can take over the duties of office. Attempts to contact Selmer for comment were to no avail.