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Palmer fails to pay IRS tax withholdings

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Mark Varsel
Ellis County Press
PALMER - Palmer could be facing fines as high as $100,000 in fines, penalties and interest for failing to pay the Internal Revenue Service city payroll taxes.

According to council members, the city is guilty of numerous instances of failing to meet its financial obligations in a timely manner.

In a special called meeting last Friday evening, city council members acknowledged money deducted from salaries of Palmer Police Department officers had not been submitted to pay premiums for AFLIC, their benefits provider.

Social Security taxes deducted from the paychecks of city employees have not been submitted to the Social Security Administration.

In addition, tax withholdings from city employees have not been sent to the Internal Revenue Service. Current fines due to the IRS alone, total more than $18,000.

The city is also forfeiting a percentage of traffic fines submitted to the state because the city failed to submit the necessary paperwork in a manner sufficient to qualify for the rebate. This also amounts to thousands of lost dollars for the city.

Immediate criticism for these oversights and shortfalls was directed at City Administrator Scott Albert and City Secretary Margaret Rhodes.

As one of the highest paid city employees, a local citizen said Albert was an easy target for blame and accusations. However, it was still unclear where the shortfall occured in the processing of financial payments by the city.

Albert has a background in city administration with the city of Plano. He has both a bachelor's and a master's degree and an extensive background in finance.

City officials were quick to acknowledge Albert was already responsible for successfully landing three government grants worth more than $750,000 to the city.

Police Chief Stephen Sparks was quick to defend the city administrator.

'Since Scott Albert came on board, there has been more than a 180-degree turn (in) where this city is going. There have been vast improvements in the city, in municipal courts and in public works,' he said.

'Can you correct a problem you have, before you know the problem exists?' said Mayor Marvin Rhoades, pointing out these shortfalls had just recently been identified.

Albert offered his own defense by acknowledging he was starting at ground level and working his way up to 'get the city's house in order.'

There were no clear reasons or explanations for the shortcomings given by any of the city's representatives.

When asked about the extent of the fines, Mayor Pro-Tem Sam Knoll acknowledged, 'It is possible the fines could rise as high as $100,000, we don't know. We currently have a list of fines and penalties that we do know apply.'

When directly asked if the errant funds were safe and accounted for, Rhoades offered an emphatic 'yes!' in response.

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