U. Providence tax collector leaves a mountain of problems

Posted: June 21, 2014

Over the last four years, Upper Providence Township's tax collector had a history of sloppy bookkeeping and late payments, Montgomery County officials say, finally forcing them last month to freeze her accounts and seize her records.

The county and the Spring-Ford Area School District are now combing through the records of Beverly Nohl, who served from 2010 through 2013, to reconcile undeposited checks, duplicate payments, lost receipts, and other issues.

She "kind of stopped, in the fall of last year, performing the job adequately," said Bill Caldwell, a deputy tax collector for the county. "We found a lot of taxpayers were trying to pay their bills and couldn't because she was not responsive."

At their meeting Thursday, the county commissioners agreed to waive late fees for residents who pay by July 23. Letters are going out Friday to make sure anyone who already paid will have a chance to prove it.

"Most of the money was there," Deputy County Controller Bernadette Vereb said. "Some she hadn't put into her system, so we don't know who it was from."

Vereb said her audits had not found evidence of malfeasance by Nohl; "she just was unable to keep up with the workload."

Vereb told the commissioners that Nohl had health issues but did not elaborate.

Nohl, reached Thursday at her Collegeville home, said she was unable to speak because she was having trouble breathing. She said she would communicate by e-mail, but did not respond to questions.

County audits in 2010, 2011, and 2013 indicate that at various points Nohl to failed to make biweekly payments and monthly reports; did not date-stamp checks; recorded checks but did not deposit them; deposited checks but did not record them; failed to mark voided checks; wrote checks out of sequence; and accepted the wrong amount of taxes owed.

The problems seem to have been worst in the summers, when Nohl often went four months without sending the county its share of tax collections. According to the 2013 audit, she told the county she was too busy "processing school taxes, and claims she did not have sufficient time."

School Superintendent David Goodin said Nohl had been a huge drain on the district's staff.

"We encountered such shortcomings, I guess primarily in her bookkeeping," he said. "Monthly we're trying to reconcile reports that she's giving to us, and trying to make up for what she's not doing."

As frustration mounted, the district had little recourse. "Here you've got an elected official that doesn't answer to us, but we have to work with her," he said.

Nohl, a Republican elected in 2009, did not run for reelection last year, and in January she was replaced by former school board member Julie Mullen.

Unlike with many elected offices, Mullen said, tax collectors do not pick up where their predecessors leave off.

"You come in with a clean slate," she said.

Mullen said she had not seen Nohl's records and did not know why so many problems arose during her tenure. But she said that the job was significantly more demanding than she expected.

"I didn't think it was going to be a full-time job," Mullen said. "But it definitely is. It's a lot of work for one person."


jparks@philly.com

610-313-8117 @JS_Parks

www.inquirer.com/MontcoMemo

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