By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
The following report of an embezzlement arrest does not directly involve a homeowners association.
You see, Diamondhead is a city in Mississippi. Well, actually, the community was born more than 5 decades ago as a master planned resort community along the Gulf Coast. So, yes, there’s still a Property Owners Association (POA) in Diamondhead. No, it has not (yet) been officially dissolved, even after incorporating as a city in 2012.
But the City does not provide a fire department for Diamondhead. Instead, Diamondhead has its own Fire Protection District (a special taxing district).
So if you own a home or lot in Diamonhead, you’ll pay taxes to the City, a separate tax to the Fire Protection District (FPD), and, on top of that, you will still pay assessments to the POA.
More layers of government, more cost to Diamondhead residents and taxpayers!
Actually, Special Districts are becoming more common across the U.S. According to Census figures, there were more than 38,000 Special Districts in the U.S. as of 2012. Personally, I’ve owned homes with Water Management Districts, Mosquito Control Districts, Recreation Districts, and probably some others I cannot recall at the moment.
According to a report in the Sun Herald, a recent audit of the FPD uncovered financial irregularities. Hancock County Sheriff’s Office embarked on a criminal investigation, which has resulted in the arrest of Sandra Morris Zitterkopf, 55, for alleged embezzlement.
Zitterkopf was employed as a clerk for the Fire Protection District, responsible for collecting monthly fees from Diamondhead property owners.
Special Districts such as Diamonhead FPD are relatively small, sparsely staffed, stand alone units of government, often with no direct supervision or oversight at the municipal or state level.
The perfect opportunity for employee misconduct and theft.
However, in comparison to weak regulation for HOAs and POAs, state law requires regular audits for governments, including Special Districts. That alerts officials of misappropriation within months, not years. And states tend to enforce stiff penalties for convictions involving government theft, as opposed to notoriously weak penalties for corporate theft involving Association Governing boards, trustees, or managers.
Diamondhead Fire Protection District clerk arrested
BY WESLEY MULLER
Hancock County sheriff’s deputies arrested an employee of the Diamondhead Fire Protection District on Monday, accusing her of embezzling more than $25,000 from taxpayers.