Clinton Judge/Executive says county business is hampered by past due payroll tax debt

Posted December 18, 2019 at 9:42 am

Ricky Craig 04-19 Color.psd

In recent months, Clinton County Judge/Executive Ricky Craig and his office staff have been working tirelessly to overcome a debt that had been unknown to him when he first was sworn into the position.

Craig, during an interview with the Clinton County News this week, explained that the situation involving the debt, had occurred during the past administration.

According to Craig, during the months of 2015 to 2018, former Clinton County Judge/Executive Richard Armstrong’s office failed to pay payroll withholdings that totaled $212,147.79 during his four year term.

During that term, Dallas Sidwell was Clinton County Treasurer for six months before retiring and handing the job over to Tuesday Davis. Davis held the position as treasurer until the end of June 2019 when she then took the position of finance officer. Cindy Thrasher was then hired as Clinton County Treasurer and currently holds that position.

Davis left her position as finance officer in August of 2019.

“We started getting letters that we owed this and we owed that,” Craig said. “Threatening letters.”

Craig said there was a folder discovered that was full of letters from the Internal Revenue Service stating what the county owed in back taxes for payroll withholding. He added that at the time the folder and letter were discovered, those letters had never been opened and never paid.

“It’s put us in a financial bind for the reasons that we can’t do other projects because we’ve had to pay all this,” Craig said. “But this has got us up to the front.”

Once the letters were found in August of 2019, they were opened in front of all the magistrates in order to maintain an open door policy at Craig’s request.

Federal payroll taxes as well as state payroll taxes have to be paid every two weeks according to Thrasher.

“This is something that should have never happened, but it fell in our laps and our job is to clean it up and that’s what we’ve done,” Craig said.

The Clinton County Fiscal Court balanced a budget of $4.7 million for 2019 and having to take more than $200,000 unexpectedly from that total budget has put a strain on the county.

“We’ve had to take it out of our other accounts,” Craig said. “We took it from the occupational and general fund in order to make these payments. We can’t bother the road fund … we’ve had some pretty hefty bills other than this, like our audits, but this is our main concern. We’ve just taken it from everything to make it right. As we speak now it is all paid in full.”

Payroll taxes is money that is normally budgeted throughout the year and it goes without saying that it should have been paid on time.

According to Thrasher, payroll withholding is considered a standard that doesn’t have to get approval by the fiscal court in order to get paid, therefore, in the past there were no checks and balances on whether or not the taxes were paid .

“Every month, at the meetings now, I give them (the fiscal court) a copy of the payroll bank statement that shows you’ve had your Humana taken out, you’ve have your retirement taken out, two IRS and two Kentucky State payroll statements,” Thrasher said. “We are open books. Anybody can come look at anything anytime.”

With $212,147.79 dollars gone from the budget that should have normally been there for the year, Craig said it will take a long time to recover.

“It will take three years or more to recoup this,” Craig said. “Next year we will look at our budget carefully and see what needs to be done. Our job right now is to clean it up and we are.”

As far as the break down of funds is concerned, Clinton County owed $183,219.28 dollars to the IRS and $28,928.51 to the Kentucky Department of Revenue on unpaid payroll withholding taxes from years 2015 to 2018.

One of the urgencies to pay the $183,219.28 for the IRS was because Craig said he received a letter stating the IRS was going to seize all of the property owned by the fiscal court if the back taxes weren’t paid.

“It scared us a little,” Craig said. “That was the last letter we got. It has put a hardship on us, but we will be alright. We have to do what we have to do. We have to pay our bills. When I leave here, the next person who comes in here will come into a clean office. We have everything here if anybody wants to come look at it.”