Travis County Tax Office addresses ongoing fraud investigations

Travis County Tax Assessor Collector Bruce Elfant presented an update to county commissioners on the state of the tax office, more than three months after arrests were made in conjunction with motor vehicle fraud.

Travis County Tax Assessor Collector Bruce Elfant presented an update to county commissioners on the state of the tax office, more than three months after arrests were made in conjunction with motor vehicle fraud.

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.
By Taylor Jackson Buchanan
Taylor Buchanan joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 after completing a master of journalism degree from the University of Texas. She worked as the senior reporter for Community Impact's Southwest Austin edition and is now the editor for the company's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition.


MOST RECENT

The 6.5-mile project will be an important connection for the pedestrian, bicycle and transit networks, according to city officials. (Courtesy Austin Public Works)
City of Austin begins design of urban trail on abandoned rail corridor

The city, along with the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, won a state award for a Bergstrom Spur Trail study.

Consuelo Mendez Middle School has consistently received poor ratings from the Texas Education Agency. (Community Impact Newspaper)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: State could take over AISD school board if poorly-rated campus does not improve; new furniture store to open in McKinney and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Dec. 3.

Derrick Chubbs is leaving Austin for a food bank in Florida. (Courtsey Central Texas Food Bank)
Central Texas Food Bank CEO Derrick Chubbs steps down

Derrick Chubbs is leaving Austin for a food bank in Florida.

Consuelo Mendez Middle School has consistently received poor ratings from the Texas Education Agency. (Community Impact Newspaper)
State could take over AISD school board if poorly rated campus does not improve next year

If the school does receive an improved rating, the state's commissioner of education could replace every member of Austin ISD's school board.

Austin ISD trustee Noelita Lugo argues for breaking down student achievement measures by race in the district's 2021-2026 scorecard, rather than examining only economically disadvantaged students without racial groups. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin ISD considers how to measure equity gaps in academic achievement

Austin ISD trustees are continuing to work out details of the 2021-2026 district scorecard, which measures progress on equity goals.

Austin City Council made changes to arts and library funding among other decisions Dec. 2. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Hall notebook: Arts community, homeless health care program get funding, plus other actions

City Council approved more than 50 items Dec. 2, changing the Office of Civil Rights, doling out funding and more.

Council Member Greg Casar speaks at a press conference outside City Hall ahead of a vote to approve an ordinance granting the Austin Office of Civil Rights enforcement power. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Office of Civil Rights granted new powers

An ordinance passed by Austin City Council on Dec. 2 creates additional civil and criminal penalties for discrimination.

The school board will consider whether to call a special election to fill the vacancy or make an appointment. (Zara Flores/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: Hays CISD to hold special meeting on resignation of board member; Montgomery approves plan for downtown and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Dec. 2.

The existing gallery location on South Lamar Boulevard will close on Dec. 20. (Courtesy Ao5 Gallery)
Ao5 Gallery relocating from South Austin to The Arboretum this winter

With the relocation to Northwest Austin, Ao5 Gallery will expand its custom framing services, have better parking, be able to display more art and be able to accommodate more guests for live events, according to officials with the gallery.

Rendering of Tesla's Cybertruck
Tesla officially names Texas gigafactory as its new headquarters

A U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing shows the Travis County manufacturing plant as Tesla's new home base.

The state and the city of Austin had already exhausted rental assistance funding from the federal program. (Benton Graham/Community Impact Newspaper)
Travis County hits pause on rental assistance applications as federal dollars dry up

With surging demand and the scheduled eviction moratorium expiring in December, Travis County is facing a possible shortfall in Emergency Rental Assistance Program funding.