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Tag: taxes

Judge’s aide used county credit card for $150,000 in purchases, including a tuxedo for her pug

gossA former assistant to a county judge in Arkansas has entered a guilty plea to charges she used a county credit card to charge more than $150,000, including pet insurance and a tuxedo for her pug.

Kristi Lyn Goss, 44, who left the job after the allegations came to light, was scheduled to go to trial this week. Instead she entered a guilty plea and a sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 22.

Goss was arrested in October of 2016. She had been employed as a judicial administrative assistant since 2004.

The Hot Springs Sentinel Record said an affidavit filed in the case accused her of paying her personal bills and buying personal items with the credit card since 2011.

Garland County Comptroller Susan Ashmore discovered the discrepancies in May 2016 after Goss failed to pay county bills on time.

The newspaper said a legislative auditor discovered 3,722 charges made on the card between December 2011 and May 2016 and confirmed $70,523.64 in personal purchases made by Goss.

The auditor also identified $92,074.48 in additional purchases suspected to be personal in nature, based on the names of the businesses where the purchases were made. The total amount of unauthorized purchases was $162,598.

Goss apparently used the card to pay for her electric bills, cellphone bills, car payments, tickets to Arkansas Razorback games, her personal real estate taxes, pet insurance and a tuxedo for her dog.

“Dig ’em up and move ’em out”

greenmounds

When is a “final resting place” not so final?

When it’s a pet cemetery in Florida.

The owner of Green Mounds Pet Cemetery in Pinellas County says she can no longer afford to maintain or pay taxes on the property, and she is urging owners of the thousands of pets buried there to “dig ’em up and move ’em out,” according to a recent report by WFLA.

“In another year the county will most likely take possession of the property due to back taxes owed,” Laura Fletcher, president of Fletcher Enterprises, Inc., told a Channel 8 reporter.

She advised pet owners to move their animals to another cemetery before someone else takes the property and decides to bulldoze and develop it.

Seems all those promises the cemetery’s previous owners made about perpetual care, and all the fees pet owners paid for it, mean nothing now — if they ever did in the first place.

The former owners of the cemetery sold the property in 2000 to Fletcher Enterprises, Inc., which owned a Harley Davidson dealership next door. The company purchased the cemetery, but never operated it as such. They planned instead to use the land to expand their parking lot.

When the motorcycle dealership went out of business, Fletcher Enterprises stopped fully maintaining the property, which is now overgrown with weeds, with a mausoleum that serves as home to at least one otherwise homeless man.

Those who buried their dogs and other pets there over the decades — reportedly 6,000 of them — have watched the cemetery get covered up with weeds and brush so dense that any headstones have become hard to see.

“I get angry at this place not being maintained, because I did pay for perpetual care,” said Joann Vaught, who buried her poodle Martini in Green Mounds in 1979. “I think it’s deplorable, it’s such a disgrace to the memory of our beloved pets.”

Green Mounds sits off U.S. Highway 19 near the Largo city line.

The WFLA reporter who visited found a mattress in the mausoleum building, apparently used by the same man whose underwear was seen hanging on a railing.

Customers have complained to Pinellas County officials about conditions at the cemetery, but they said all they could do anything about was the weeds. The county has ordered Fletcher to cut them several times, and she has complied.

Pet cemeteries are not regulated by the state.

Fletcher told WFLA in an email that she is willing to donate Green Mounds to another pet cemetery or anyone who will maintain it.

“We are within our rights to sell, donate or build on the property as we see fit. We chose not to do any of these until pets could be moved. It has been a year and a half. Plenty of time to move them. Do it soon or you may not get a say in what happens to them once we no longer own the property.”

Here’s the WFLA report:

WFLA News Channel 8

Almost home: You won’t see this on HGTV

Before I show you my new place — that’s next week, when I’m done decorating — I thought I’d show you somebody else’s.

We came upon it last week, on the trip to move my furniture down south.

There’s an exit on I-95 in Virginia that Ace and I always stop at — one where I can get low-price, by Maryland standards, cigarettes; fill my gas tank; and grab a bite at the Burger King, whose guide to which sodas go best with which entrees always makes by beverage decision easier.

Then we drive a few hundred feet to the end of a big parking lot, where there’s a large grassy area, next to a copse of trees. I park at the edge of the grass, open the back of the Jeep and sit there to enjoy my picnic lunch while Ace sniffs around the empty patch of grass, takes care of business, then sits and waits for french fries to be flung his way. Or better yet, in his view, a hunk of burger, whose variations at Burger King include a Triple Whopper, and Quad Stacker. As you know, you can “Have it your way.”

The exit — Willis Road, I think it’s called, on the southern edge of Richmond — has become a tradition for us. Ace likes traditions, especially those involving meat.

Last week, with Ace in the back of the Jeep, and my friend Will following me in the rented moving truck, I had tired of music and decided to find a talker on the radio, either flaming liberal or die-hard conservative — for those are the only options — it didn’t matter.

I can’t remember his name, but I ended up with the die-hard conservative — a Rush Limbaugh wannabe, only angrier, who was jumping all over President Obama’s recent remarks about increasing taxes on the richest to assist the poorest.

Obama, it seemed, wanted to help the “less fortunate,” and you would have guessed, from the way the talk show host was saying “less fortunate” that he was smirking and putting finger quotes around it — as if he thought there was no such thing, or, if there were, that they were all sissies.

Though I had spent nearly a year without my material possessions as Ace and I traveled across America on a shoestring; though I’m not employed by anyone other than myself, though I have neither health insurance nor nest egg, I’ve never considered myself among the less fortunate (which I say without finger quotes, because only sissies make finger quotes).

Similarly, I’ve never considered myself too far removed from that group. One overnight hospital visit would probably put me in their ranks.

In our time on the road, Ace and I were homeless by choice, but frugal out of necessity, which explains why we ran into plenty of down on their luck souls — some of whom had made bad decisions, more of whom were victims of matters beyond their control, like layoffs, or foreclosures, or crime, or natural disasters, or unnatural disasters, or health issues or disabilities.

In the America of 2011, with the gap between the rich and the poor having become as extreme as our talk show hosts, I’m thankful to be in the middle, even the lower section of the middle. I plan to try and stay there until the middle disappears. Having reunited with my possessions, called in my pension (it actually came when I called) and begun setting up a new home — albeit without stainless steel appliances — I’m feeling more secure. But I’m aware of how tenuous that can be.

After stopping at our traditional Virginia picnic spot last week, I finished off my fish sandwich, accompanied by a Diet Coke — though maybe Sprite would have been a better choice — and Ace I walked around the corner, where there was a wooden fence with a small opening in it. We stepped through.

That’s where we saw this homeless encampment.

 

I’m not sure if it served as home for multiple people, or just one, but nobody was at the camp amid the trees, just off I-95, where a half dozen mattresses and tarps were scattered, clothes hung on tree limbs and — speaking of accessories that pop — empty sardine cans, their tops peeled back, served as ash trays.

I was wandering around taking pictures, when a medium-sized, copper-colored dog came running out from behind a mattress that was leaning against the fence. Barking furiously, he headed straight at me, then stopped and stared, as if daring me to take another step in his direction.

I tried to fling him some french fries, but every time I threw one, he retreated — only slightly though, never leaving his position amid the modest little camp. That seemed to be his mission — to protect the few meager belongings that were there, to guard over them until his human came back from collecting aluminum cans, or panhandling at the exit ramp, or maybe even working a real job.

The dog acted like it was Fort Knox, and he was a German shepherd.

That’s got to be in the top hundred of the million great things about dogs — they don’t care how much stuff you have.

They are able to show respect, loyalty and compassion to the poorest of souls — in a way Republicans, at least the loudest ones, are rarely able to master. Some Democrats aren’t that great at it, either. I’m not always too good at it myself. How much have I contributed to Japanese tsunami victims? Zero. I need to save up and buy a clothes dryer.

We humans are far more selfish than dogs. Then again dogs aren’t raised on TV ads and shiny magazines that bombard them with images of things that manipulative marketing types persuade them they must have.

I thought about calling the conservative radio talk show host, even though he sounded like a very nasty fellow who would interrupt me. “Why is it we make a greater investment in accumulating stuff than in our fellow humans?” I wanted to ask. “When did war become patriotic and helping people become unpatriotic?”

And which soda really does pair best with the fish sandwich?

Pay toll or die

Since I was in elementary school, I’ve had trouble distinguishing New Hampshire from Vermont. I know one of them is fat at the bottom and skinny at the top and the other is skinny at the bottom and fat at the top. I know one is directly east of the other. I know one is the “Live Free or Die” state (though it has always struck me as a rather bold assertion, coming from a license plate).

But — even though I’ve been to both — I’ve never been quite postive which was which. They are easily confused, at least in my head.

Heading north on I-95, I hit New Hampshire — or was it Vermont? No, it was New Hampshire — and was surprised to find myself suddenly coming to a toll booth.

Had I more carefully checked my maps, I would have known, by the green coloring, that portions of I-95 were toll; but I didn’t, so it was a rude awakening — kind of like going to the library and, halfway through a book, being told you’re going to have to pay to read the ending.

On top of that, it struck me as strange. Wait a minute, I thought. Isn’t this the “Live Free or Die” state? Sure, I know that the “free” the slogan refers to is the type we all take for granted, as opposed to the type that I’m always on the lookout for. Still, the two have a lot in common, viewed in an historical perspective — for taxation, and avoiding unfair forms of it, was a big part of America becoming America. So either way, it seemed ironic.

Unless, of course, I had it backwards and Vermont is the live free or die state.

In any event, I forked over my $2 — it seeming a far better choice than dying — and drove on.

A bit later, I stopped in the lovely little town of Portsmouth, N.H., for a quick drive-through and a pack of cigarettes. At a Sunoco station, I noticed some homemade dog treats on the counter and asked if they were made locally.

“In Vermont,” the proprietor answered. “The upside down New Hampshire.”

That got me confused again, temporarily. “And which state am I in?” I asked.

“This is New Hampshire,” he said.

“And which one is the live free or die state?” I asked.

“We are,” he said.

“Is that still the slogan?” I asked.

“Well,” he said, “it depends how many more people from Mass. move up here. If that keeps happening we’ll just be dying.”

New Hampshire also uses I-95 to promote the sale of liquor in its state stores, and state lottery tickets.

In addition to exit signs for historical attractions, food, gas and lodging, New Hampshire prominently posts official signs on the Interstate for exits at which there are state liquor stores and state lottery outlets. It has yet to post signs for other vices — drug dealers, houses of prostitution, strip clubs and the like — but then again, it doesn’t run those operations.

We passed through but a sliver of New Hampshire, and will be visiting its northern reaches in another week or so, as Ace and I make our way back from the top of Maine. From previous visits, I know $2 was a small price to pay to see the White Mountains, in their full fall beauty, no less.

But I still have trouble with Vermont’s … I mean New Hamsphire’s … slogan. It strikes me as a little too drastic — a little too suicide bomber, a little too Toby Keith.

I think the slogan could use some editing. Here’s what I propose: “Live Free.”

Tax deduction proposed for adopted animals

A state Assemblyman in California has proposed letting residents who adopt a pet from a shelter write off any adoption fees on their taxes.

“Local governments in California are spending upward of $100 million sheltering animals each year,” Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, said in a news release. “Everyday we hear about people walking away from their houses, and in many cases, they are abandoning their pets as well.”

The deductions, according to NBC News in Los Angeles, would be allowed for animals adopted from local government and nonprofit animal shelters. If passed, the plan would begin at the start of next year and be on the books through Jan. 1, 2015.