Marshall Co. Revenue Commissioner resigns following arrest

Masters was arrested Monday morning.
Masters was arrested Monday morning.
Masters was charged with a misdemeanor ethics violation.
Masters was charged with a misdemeanor ethics violation.

MARSHALL COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - Authorities arrested the Marshall County Revenue Commissioner Monday morning.

Joey Masters was arrested by special agents with the Attorney General's Office around 9 a.m. and charged with a misdemeanor ethics violation.

Masters was booked into the Marshall County Jail and released later Wednesday on a $1,500 bond.

Masters, 51, of Albertville, submitted his resignation as Revenue Commissioner after his arrest.

The warrant charges Masters with knowing use of his official position to obtain personal gain. The crime is punishable by up to 12 months in the county jail and a fine of up to $6,000.

In 2012, the State Revenue Department took over Masters' office after an audit claimed he gave property tax breaks to himself and his family. Masters admitted those mistakes and said there was no criminal wrongdoing. He returned to the job in August.

Masters' attorney, Dan Warnes, said the charges stem from removing a couple hundred dollars from the petty cash drawer at the Revenue Office. Warnes said Masters knows he is responsible for the money, whether the shortage was due to his use or by accounting errors made by employees.

Warnes said Masters has repaid the money shorted from the cash drawer, citing he had no intention of violating the state ethics law.

The county commission chairman said residents should not worry about getting what they need done at the Revenue Office.

"The citizens of Marshall County will see no change. Yes, Joey resigned today, but Joey wasn't running the office on a day-to-day basis before, so the State Revenue Department is running it, doing an outstanding job, and the taxpayers won't see any change," said Chairman James Hutcheson.

The Attorney General's office led this investigation, but an attorney who filed a lawsuit aiming to uncover who benefited from the changes in property values said the arrest could hamper those efforts.

The attorney for a plaintiff in the civil case against Masters questions why the AG is focusing on a couple hundred dollars, as opposed to some $20 million in lost money to county residents, as his suit claims.

The suit claims Masters reduced property values, thus taxes, for wealthy friends and supporters, which became lost revenue to the county, the cities and schools.

The attorney predicts the misdemeanor arrest by the AG will do more harm than good, and only aid in sweeping the elephant out of the room.

"The case will be continued for a couple of years. Then he will plead guilty to a misdemeanor and it will all go away. And the people of Marshall County will be none the wiser. They'll still not know what happened to approximately $20 million of tax money and who got the benefit from it," said Randy Beard.

Requests for specific names and properties in question in the civil suit have not been responded to by state officials.

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