State Seeks $140,000 Missing From License Commissioner’s Office
A yearlong investigation into the Tuscaloosa County license commissioner's office continues after more than $140,000 in taxpayer funds went missing under the supervision of former Commissioner Lynne Robbins.
At a press conference Friday morning, Probate Judge Rob Robertson said shortly after he was sworn into office in January 2019, irregularities in the license commissioner's office were brought to his attention and he ordered an investigation into the matter.
State examiners and personnel from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency began digging into the matter, and in December 2019, Robbins was placed on administrative leave. She resigned in February 2020 and a new commissioner was appointed in September.
In November 2020, the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts released a special report that alleged Robbins accepted money from taxpayers then modified records so that not all collected funds were deposited into the commissioner's official account.
From April 2016 through December 2019, Robbins allegedly made modifications totaling $131,180.96 and the final destination of those funds is still unknown.
Robbins also reportedly wrote 16 bad checks to her own office in exchange for almost $5,000 cash collected from taxpayers and never repaid the money lost and issued motor vehicle tags to herself and family members without paying proper ad valorem taxes
Robbins was asked to pay $136,600.64 back to the commissioner's office but has yet to do so.
Her former deputy director, Jennifer Wetzel, also reportedly made modifications to payments from taxpayers that prevented more than $5,000 from being deposited into the office's bank account.
Chief Examiner Rachel Laurie Riddle held a hearing last October and found just cause to relieve Wetzel from a charge to repay $5,025.57 to the license commissioner's office, so she no longer owes that amount back to the county.
ALEA's criminal investigation into the matter continues, and Robertson said he would update the public after it concludes.
"If anything is going on, there will be no stone left unturned to get to the bottom of what it is and deal with it," Robertson said Friday. "It's too important. When I pay a tax dollar I want to know there's no waste and I sure don't want it going unaccounted for."
Robertson said he hopes the long and thorough investigation from unbiased state employees, the appointment of a new commissioner and the implementation of new checks and balances will be proof of his commitment to finding the truth and show taxpayers they can still trust county officials.
"I'd like every penny of this money accounted for. Wherever that is, I want the money, but depending on the outcome to see what can be recovered or if there's a plausible explanation for this -- until I have those facts, we'll just wait and see," Robertson said. "The main thing is you identify, you get it shut down and get controls in place to ensure this can't happen again."