Dallas County BOE looks back at tax dilemma

Published 8:00 am Saturday, July 30, 2022

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The Dallas County Board of Education unanimously approved entering into an agreement with Lelar C. Wilson, of LNC Tax Relief, LLC, in hopes of clearing up tax discrepancies dating back to 2018 during Thursday’s meeting.

Board attorney Malika Sanders-Fortier said her understanding of the matter was the necessary documents and tax payments were made correctly, but there were inconsistencies in the documents that were filed.

“Even though everything was turned in in a timely manner – that wasn’t the issue, there were just some discrepancies,” Sanders-Fortier said. “That has been worked out because of the documentation that has been sent. Now, we just need to get rid of all those penalties, and that is what Mrs. Wilson would be working on doing if you contracted her.”

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Those inconsistencies resulted in more than $170,000 in penalties.

“The bottom line of how they got there was things didn’t match, documents were asked for and it took a long time for those documents to be given,” Sanders-Fortier said. “At this point, they have been turned in, but it took a long time for those documents to be turned in.”

Sanders-Fortier said the delay in turning over the requested documents caused the penalties to accrue over time.

District 5 Board Member Leroy Miles said he wanted a corrective action plan put in place in order to prevent this type of issue.

“With us having to spend 170-something thousand dollars on something that didn’t line up, that’s unacceptable,” he said.

Sanders-Fortier said to Miles she hopes having Wilson intervene on the school system’s behalf will clear up the matter and eliminate the penalties.

“She believes because we actually did turn everything in in a timely manner, except for when they asked for the documents to clear up the discrepancy,” Sanders-Fortier said. “But the actual documents you’re legally supposed to turn in, those were turned in in a timely manner and those were paid in a timely manner.”

Sanders-Fortier presented the board with a letter of engagement and contract sent by Wilson’s office. The contract with Wilson, a former IRS agent and subject-matter expert on tax matters, would pay out two payments of $2,750, one on Aug. 5 and one on Sept. 5.

Board President Mark Story said he felt like the board should initiate the contract with Wilson and added he wanted documentation of how the discrepancies occurred.

“What I would like to receive, and I don’t know, maybe you can tell us where we can get this from, is a written description of where all this went off the rails – how it happened (and) who the players were,” he said. “We’ve heard all kinds of different versions of this, and we can’t ignore it. That’s part of a problem.”

He added while he wanted to investigate the matter to find what how it happened, he does understand there’s been several changes in the finance staff since the discrepancy occurred.

Sanders-Fortier said she doesn’t believe the scope of what the contract asks Wilson to do includes the kind of comprehensive report Story is requesting, but it may be possible for Wilson to provide what her findings were on from an IRS perspective.

“My thought is that if you really want to have a comprehensive investigation, you’ll have to send somebody internally,” she said. “You’ll have use somebody who’ll have to come to the office, go through the paperwork (and) talk to people so you can know what exactly happened.”

Story said he was placing no blame at all on current Chief School Financial Officer Sandra Purdy because the discrepancies pre-dated her employment.

“I’m not finger-pointing at you by no means, but that’s a lot of money,” he said. “Even if we cut it in half, that’s a lot of money.”

Dallas County Schools Superintendent Anthony Sampson said he was aware of the issue presented and he agreed that preventing something like this from occurring should be a priority.

“I’ll say internal controls is the right vernacular we’re looking for to make sure that it doesn’t happen,” he said. “When you’re doing quarterlies, the quarterlies should match the annuals. What are our internal controls to ensure that there’s no discrepancy? I think that’s not a big ask to say that we need to sure up our internal controls as we go forward so that it doesn’t happen.”

More coverage from Thursday’s meeting will be available in Tuesday’s e-edition of The Selma Times-Journal and Wednesday’s edition.