Despite controversy that struck her campaign in the weeks leading up to the election, Franklin County Collector of Revenue Linda Emmons of Union prevailed with a strong margin of victory in Tuesday’s primary election.
About two weeks before the election, a wave of controversy descended on Emmons, a Republican.
Emmons defeated Republicans Sherri Matthews and Tori Karim, both of Union.
Emmons carried 9,208 votes compared to Matthews’ 4,365 and Karim’s 696, unofficial results show. Emmons had almost 65 percent of the vote, which she said was more than she expected. She was “honored” by the support and said she can’t thank the taxpayers enough for their votes.
Someone could still file as a write-in candidate by Oct. 24 to run against Emmons in the Nov. 4 general election, according to the secretary of state’s office.
Less than two weeks before the primary election, Franklin County Assessor Tom Copeland accused Emmons of violating state law, saying she adjusted property values or abated taxes of certain taxpayers.
Moreover, the county’s outside audit found that tax abatements have occurred in the collector’s office without following the proper approval process.
On top of that, the Franklin County commissioners wrote Emmons a letter, saying it was hard to trust her office based on statements she had made about the county commission signing off on the tax changes.
The county commission said the audit finding that tax abatements have occurred in the collector’s office without following the proper approval process was “disturbing.”
But Emmons said she did not think her office did anything illegal and said the controversy, especially the timing of it right before the election, was “dirty politics.”
She said her office was acting under a state statute to issue refunds to taxpayers whose property had been erroneously inflated by the assessor’s office prior to Copeland’s tenure.
She thought her reputation would speak for itself, she said, adding that the voters did not “buy into” and “saw through” all of the uproar. Once people’s trust is earned, it’s so valuable, she added.
Emmons said she thinks the controversy around her office was a “ploy to take me down.” She added that she thinks county employees and elected officials were involved in the effort to have her beat in the election. It was thrilling to come out on top, Emmons said, adding, “It was very emotional.”
Going forward, she said she is willing to work with the commissioners if they are willing to work with her. Emmons added that she hopes she can work with the assessor’s office, too.
The audit recommended that the software in the collector’s office be upgraded to better integrate with the assessor’s office. The software should not allow the collector’s office to make changes to assessed valuation, the audit found.
“All tax abatements should be initiated by the assessor, follow the proper approval process and be electronically transmitted to the collector’s office once approved,” she said.
Emmons said she thinks there will be a meeting soon to discuss the software issues.
Earlier in her election bid one of her opponents, Karim, called the newspaper, saying he had received a threatening voice message from Emmons on his work telephone in the county planning office. Karim let The Missourian hear the message, which stated, “Hey, Tori, this is Linda. I just heard that you filed against me, so I was just going to see what you’re up to, and I was thinking about getting a baseball bat and beating you up. But I just want to talk to you if you don’t mind sometime. I might come looking for you. Bye.”
Emmons in May said she did not recall making a comment about a baseball bat and that if she did, it would have been a joke.