EDITORIAL/Barber's breach of security
Wednesday, May 14, 2014 1:00 PM
Five detailed background checks on District 2 Supervisor Ronny Lott have been conducted by Madison County Tax Assessor Gerald Barber's Office within the last 90 days. Now, Barber is complaining the public records request exposing his secret intelligence operation is a "Breach of Security."
He told WLBT on May 8 that the records should never have been made public because they are exempt under state law pertaining to law enforcement agencies and officers, specifically 25-61-12-2 (a). This specific section involves investigative reports of law enforcement agencies, not the tax man.
In an e-mail to county officials obtained by the Journal, Mr. Barber rants about his law enforcement and investigative powers.
Mr. Barber writes, almost with delusions of grandeur, about the state Supreme Court ruling allowing him to rummage through electric bills, saying it confirms he has "enforcement responsibility and has broad powers to investigate tax fraud."
What that case actually affirmed is the authority of county grand juries, not investigative powers of tax assessors.
Hoodwinking District Attorney Michael Guest into getting a grand jury involved with his electric bill fishing expedition has resulted in the high court creating the bad case law on which Mr. Barber is standing.
Ironically, Mr. Barber writes, "Our files should be secure from political pandering and our employees names and investigative methods should have never been made public."
Mr. Barber's office has clearly crossed a line that is, if not criminal, unethical or certainly unconstitutional - all-the-while as he claims constitutional powers.
His Gestapo-like operation inside the Tax Assessor's Office has gone too far and somebody has to stop this broad overreach.
There is no indication Mr. Barber is "duly sworn and vested with authority to bear arms and make arrests, whose primary responsibility is the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of criminals and the enforcement of the criminal and traffic laws of the state..."
His website says his job is to list and place a value on real estate in the county. That makes sense.
He touts himself and his office as working with law enforcement agencies to stop fraud and recover millions of dollars for Madison County.
But, Mr. Barber, a narcissistic political genius, has a history. He threatened Nissan and nine of its suppliers in 2004, saying they were at risk of losing their county tax exemptions because paperwork was missing.
In November 2013, Barber said he wanted to tax the $2 billion Nissan manufacturing plant at "full value" when the automaker's 10-year tax exemption expired at the end of that year and took it up upon himself to negotiate directly with the company.
We aren't buying Mr. Barber's explanation that he received a homestead complaint on Lott and was following up on that tip, which was anonymous, of course.
Even if Mr. Barber denies actually performing the Lott search, there's no way anyone in that office would do something so egregious without his knowledge.
Have we mentioned Mr. Barber's sidekick, mapper Irby Ford, is in a race for Chancery Clerk against Lott?
Why was the first "search" done at 5:37 p.m. when Mr. Barber's office was closed?
Why was it three weeks later when the next four searches were done?
Such comprehensive background checks, according to LexisNexis, provide access to a lot of information, including: bankruptcies, liens, judgments, UCC filings, driver's licenses, professional licenses, FAA aircraft registration, hunting and fishing permits, concealed carry permits, criminal records, sex offender information, voter registration, etc. The report also shows associates and relatives information to the third degree.
What does any of that have to do with homestead?
Mr. Barber is wrong and treading on very, very dangerous ground, but who is going to stop him?
The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires warrants to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.
The abuse of general search warrants by the British in part sparked the American Revolution, the same type of general warrants Mr. Barber is self-issuing from his Taj Mahal office on Hamil Hill.
The Constitution was written to protect the citizenry from the overreach of government. The breach of security and the threat is Mr. Barber himself, and a full accounting is due.