Leaders in the Travis County Tax Office appeared before county commissioners today, in response to an Aug. 23 grand jury report on fraudulent transactions in the tax office. The grand jury stated in the report that it found evidence of “inadequate supervision, poor accountability, bad management and outright negligence” that enabled the loss of likely millions of tax dollars.
“We recognize the longstanding operational weaknesses,” Tax Assessor Collector Bruce Elfant said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get enough done fast enough [to address the issues].”
The grand jury reported that Elfant—alongside supervisors and managers—failed to report suspicious documents and encouraged other employees to process the paperwork anyway.
“There appears to be a pervasive culture, within the supervisory ranks of the [Travis County] Tax Office, of willfully looking the other way when presented with questionable practices or behaviors,” the grand jury wrote in its report. “This lack of supervisory presence is a clear contributor to employees feeling emboldened to apparently steal from the county.”
The Travis County tax office collects and disperses $4.5 billion each year, Elfant said.
“We know that fraud [was] committed,” Commissioner Gerald Daugherty said. “This really affects [the] Travis County taxpayers. Let’s face it. We have a problem on our hands.”
Elfant addressed the Commissioners Court in 2015, requesting more funding for trained supervisors in satellite offices, Commissioner Brigid Shea said.
“We’re a fast-growing county,” Elfant said today. “We don’t have enough resources. It is a huge burden.”
Three of the four satellite offices remain closed at this time because recruiting, hiring and training qualified employees is taking longer than anticipated, he said. The Pflugerville branch, located at 15822 Foothill Farms Loop, re-opened July 24 with a full time supervisor onsite, trained in cash handling polices, Elfant said. The main tax office on Airport Blvd. is also open.
The tax office plans to open the Southeast office, located at 4011 McKinney Falls Parkway, on Sept. 18, Elfant said. The Oak Hill office, at 8656 W. Hwy. 71, Bldg. B, is slated to open in mid-October.
Here is a map of the tax office locations that are open as of Aug. 28--the main office on Airport Blvd. and the Pflugerville branch.