Greene County collector Leah Betts to resign from office

Published: Jan. 22, 2021 at 11:17 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 22, 2021 at 6:08 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Greene County collector Leah Betts will soon resign from her position after 18 years of service in the county, citing frustration with a recent computer glitch problem as the reason behind her resignation.

Betts will stick around to try and get the problems with property tax statements caused by that computer glitch fixed before leaving on February 28.

Betts was elected to the role of Greene County Collector in 2014. The position oversees more than a quarter of billion dollars in tax collections each year for distribution to more than 40 local taxing districts such as schools, municipalities and the library.

“It is with great sadness that I am resigning as I have thoroughly enjoyed making a difference in our community during my days at the County,” Betts said. “During my time in office, I have succeeded at giving a government office a personal touch, as well as enhanced many efficiencies and procedures. My office has won a couple of notable customer service awards in the last few years and it also received a flawless audit from the recent state audit. It is important that citizens know that I strategically chose the timing of my last day to get through and tackle the most challenging tasks presented during this tax season. One of my goals will be to make the best transition possible to the newly appointed Collector for the good of the citizens of the County.”

“We wish Leah all the best in her future endeavors and thank her for her dedication to the citizens of Greene County,” said Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon in a news release. “She is to be commended for her tireless efforts to provide top quality customer service to those who interact with the Greene County Collector’s Office and we further thank her for working to complete this year’s cycle of tax statements.”

The vacancy at the Greene County Collector’s Office will be filled by a gubernatorial appointment, according to the county.

The Greene County Collector’s Office has pushed back the due date of 2020 property tax payments twice in recent months. The payments, originally due at the end of December, are now due at the end of February.

A technical problem has contributed to the new deadline. Greene County officials first started upgrading the assessor’s computer system nearly four years ago. However, Betts told KY3 earlier this month she knew that program wasn’t compatible with the one she uses to generate property tax payment statements.

KY3 has asked Greene County Commissioners for an on-camera interview to address the concerns Leah Betts brought up during a recent interview with KY3.

The commission refused any interviews and instead, released this statement:

“We wish Ms. Betts all the best in her future endeavors and thank her for her service to the citizens of Greene County. She is to be commended for her efforts to provide top quality customer service to those who interact with the Greene County Collector’s Office. We further thank her for working to complete this year’s cycle of tax statements.

In addition, the Greene County Commission would like to assure residents that this year’s tax cycle has been and continues to be a collaborative effort. Several offices, including the Commission, Assessor, County Clerk, Collector and Information Systems department, have worked tirelessly to address the issues that were brought to the Commission’s attention in September 2020.

The Commission immediately provided leadership - bringing together every involved office and department - to facilitate communication and find solutions. This resulted in the ability to mail the majority of the tax statements before the end of the year and make significant progress on processing the remaining statements. This same collaborative approach is helping to identify options to streamline assessment, billing and collections in the future. For this, and all issues related to the County, the Commission will keep the focus on positive resolutions.”

Betts, a Republican, became well-known for trying to make the Collector of Revenue office more accommodating to visitors with less waiting time and friendly workers.

The office was decorated with humorous objects like a pink pig hanging from the ceiling with wings, a top hat and a mustache. A sign below explains that the pig is “Sir Piggerton III” whose job is to keep an eye on the office and make sure everyone leaves with a smile. The sign says, “You may think this seems unlikely, but you were just as likely to find a flying pig as a happy government office.”

There’s also another pink pig on a file cabinet wearing a mask with a pile of mini-toliet paper next to it representing the hard days of the pandemic.

As you leave the office there’s a bell on the wall that invites visitors to “Ring the bell if you are happy with the service provided today.”

If you call the office, you get a recorded message from Betts herself proclaiming, “Welcome to the Greene County Collector’s Office where we are surprisingly pleasant and not government-y.”

“I can make my office the least government-y office in the United States,” Betts said. “But I can’t make all of the county that same way.”

So it’s because of that “government-y” interference that Betts is resigning.

“I’m not just leaving because I’m frustrated,” Betts said during an interview on Friday right after she announced she was leaving before her term runs out in 2022. “I think there needs to be a big statement made to hopefully make a change with the county.”

Betts explained she wanted the public to know it wasn’t her office’s fault that the property tax statements got bogged down and that she had tried to warn county officials that the assessor’s switch in software would present problems for her office.

“I needed action to prevent this,” she said. “I believe it was preventable. Ultimately it was the IT (Information Technology) department that did not hear me but I had to go to the commission who is the elected body over that department. They did try. I just think different tactics needed to be used.”

Betts said the blame should not be placed at the feet of any particular county office.

“It is a multi-faceted problem,” she said. “It’s not just one office or one person. I am sad that I was not heard but sometimes you have to take drastic measures to actually instill change. I hope that they will take my warnings seriously and that moving forward they will make a better path. And they have expressed that they are going to do that.”

And for those who appreciate her efforts and would like to see her stay to help fix all the problems?

“I’m very sorry but life is just too short for this,” she said with a laugh.

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