2 satellite tax offices may never reopen after fraud investigation

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) β€” Travis County residents will have to wait another month before tax offices closer to their homes reopen.

Tax Assessor-Collector Bruce Elfant told KXAN Wednesday their plan is to reopen the Pflugerville location by July 25 and the Oak Hill location in southwest Austin shortly after. 

“We have a lot that we need to do in the satellite offices and prepare staff to go out there to make sure supervisors are available who’ll be there full time,” Elfant said.

Elfant updated the Travis County Commissioners Court Tuesday.

He told county leaders an inventory of license plates and other materials will be done. They’ll also check their security systems. 

“By July 25, I just committed to you, so that’s going to happen,” Elfant told KXAN. “By July 25, we’ll have at least one satellite office open.” 

However, the future of the Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and Springdale and McKinney Falls locations remains unclear. 

“Certainly, having four [locations] is going to be more convenient for our constituents,” he explained. “Reducing it to two would be much more efficient for management purposes and supervision.”

All four satellite offices closed back in May after a fraud investigation landed seven people behind bars. Four of them were employees. Investigators said they were involved in a scheme, taking bribes and falsifying documents. Two of the employees, Cathy Lynn Wilson and Shell Kenneth Prieto-Reese, were both indicted on their charges on June 28. 

Elfant told the Commissioners Court he immediately placed 19 employees on leave after the investigation began out of an abundance of caution.

He said, “You want to cast a wide net and make sure you rule out people. We brought back 9 people.” 

When asked why 10 people weren’t brought back, he said, “They’re personnel issues, and I can’t discuss that.”

Going forward, Elfant said how employees are trained will change. Cross-training on various tasks will allow for job rotations. They also started doing daily briefings with management. 

“We really want to learn from what happened and make sure we have more supervision,” Elfant said. “We have enough employees to handle customers properly and do their jobs appropriately and securely.”

In the meantime, Elfant said if your registration renewal is coming up, you can do it online to avoid lines. 

The receipt you receive from an online transaction is good for 30 days, he said, so even if your new sticker takes a few days to arrive, you won’t get a ticket. 

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