When the housing crisis was squeezing Atlanta and many homeowners struggled to pay their property taxes, life was getting sweeter for Fulton County’s chief tax collector.
The story you’re reading is premium content from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Subscribers get total access to all our in-depth news, digital editions and exclusive premium content. You can now also buy a 24-hour digital pass or 7-day digital pass.
Read MyAJC.com now — 24-hour digital pass99¢ for 24-hours
Read MyAJC.com all week — 7-day digital pass$3.99 for 7-days
Subscribe to AJC for as little as 33¢ per dayView Offers
AJC Print subscriber — I need to register my account for digital access.Access Digital
AJC Print subscriber — I’ve already registered my account.Sign In
About this story
A series of investigations by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this year has spotlighted concerns about operations of the Fulton County Tax Commissioner’s Office. Among the stories, the AJC reported in February that Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand’s quick sales of delinquent tax bills, before the county collected a 10 percent penalty, handed as much as $20 million in potential profits to Vesta Holdings, the biggest lien buyer, with a corresponding $20 million loss to taxpayers.
In April, another investigation showed how savvy investors use tax liens to short-circuit legal safeguards and quickly snatch homes away from taxpayers who get behind on bills, sometimes for a fraction of the properties’ value.
In May, the AJC discovered that Ferdinand had dipped into his budget to buy a 2013 Ford Explorer Limited for $39,000, which he can use for his commute to work.
For this story, Fulton County reporter Johnny Edwards used the Georgia Open Records Act to pore through hundreds of documents showing Ferdinand’s compensation and expense reimbursements. Among them were income tax forms revealing that the tax commissioner, the state’s highest-paid elected official, has been earning even more money than previously reported.
Edwards examined campaign finance disclosure statements and property tax records. And with assistance from database reporter Jeff Ernsthausen, he used a tax lien database that the AJC obtained after a two-year open records battle with Ferdinand and the county.