Former Rowan County tax administrator indicted for bribery, embezzlement

Published 1:24 pm Wednesday, March 16, 2022

SALISBURY — A former Rowan County employee is facing charges of bribery, embezzlement and obtaining property by false pretense for acts committed during his tenure as tax administrator.

Kelvin Byrd was indicted by a grand jury in Rowan County Superior Court on Monday on one count of embezzlement by a local government official, two counts of bribery and four counts of obtaining property by false pretense. Byrd was employed as Rowan County’s tax administrator from August 2012 until his resignation in October 2019. As tax administrator, Byrd oversaw the county’s tax appraisal and collection efforts.

The indictment comes as a result of an investigation conducted by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation under the watch of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys.

During the investigation, authorities determined that Byrd embezzled $5,049 from Rowan County from Dec. 16, 2015, to Nov. 19, 2016, according to court records.

Byrd was charged with two counts of bribery for accepting golf trips and a boat trip from SouthData, Inc., and for accepting college basketball tickets from Tyler Technologies, both with the “understanding the defendant would be influenced in performing an official act in that the defendant would award an official contract” to the two companies. The benefits Byrd received from SouthData were over a four-year span from June 2015 to August 2019.

Both SouthData and Tyler Technologies have current contracts with Rowan County to provide services related to tax administration. SouthData became a Rowan County vendor during Byrd’s tenure. Tyler Technologies was already a vendor, but the county contracted with the company for tax-related services during Byrd’s time as administrator.

Byrd’s four counts of obtaining property by false pretense are a result of him modifying property tax bills for the Grand at Julian apartment complex to show a lower amount due. Byrd did this in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018, according to court records. Named in Byrd’s indictment is David Barr, the CEO at Barr Residential Development, which is the management company for the Grand on Julian. Byrd allegedly aided and abetted Barr in “unlawfully, willfully, feloniously, knowingly and designedly” cheating and defrauding Rowan County by obtaining money by false pretense.

In March 2020, Rowan County recovered the $50,885 owed by the Grand on Julian from previous “incorrect bills.” The county did waive the interest of $13,595 owed on the late collection.

Byrd, whose current listed address is in Watauga County, resigned his employment with Rowan County on Oct. 23, 2019. The county says “irregularities” were discovered after his departure that required further review. The county retained Charlotte-based law firm Parker Poe to conduct an independent internal investigation of the irregularities. On Jan. 10, 2020, the firm requested the Rowan County District Attorney and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation open an investigation into the irregularities.

The matter was referred to the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, a group of independent prosecutors who provide support to district attorney offices across the state. The N.C. Conference of District Attorneys oversaw the N.C. SBI investigation.

Rowan County officials believe Byrd acted in isolation.

“No other employees are implicated in any of this,” County Attorney Jay Dees told the Post.

After the irregularities were discovered, Rowan County eliminated the tax administrator position and split the responsibilities into two separate positions: tax assessor and tax collector.

“This created a firewall of solid checks and balances that reduced centralized authority, therefore providing safeguards against future irregularities,” the county said in a statement.

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About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at ben.stansell@salisburypost.com.

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