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No oath of office for new Haywood Tax Collector: County in holding pattern after elected tax collector couldn’t get bonded

The newly elected tax collector in Haywood County was unable to take office Monday as scheduled after failing to secure a $410,000 bond.

For now, the long-time tax collector David Francis will continue in the role on an interim basis.

Francis was narrowly ousted as tax collector in a surprise upset victory by Mike Matthews, 35, who ran on the Republican ticket at the behest of Republican Party operatives in a quest to find candidates from their party to round out the ballot.

Matthews was considered a long shot in the race. He has limited experience or qualifications for a job overseeing $39 million in collections annually. 

Matthews can’t take office until he secures a personal liability bond. At least one bonding company denied his application so far.

Tax collectors must be bonded per state statute. In the event of poor job performance or malfeasance, the bond would kick in to cover losses incurred by the county. The personal performance bonds are common for those in the financial industry and act like an insurance policy — but instead of paying out in the event of fire or flood, the bond safeguards against losses due to human error.

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County commissioners set the bon amount at $410,000

It is not known why Matthews hasn’t been able to get bonded yet. Matthews has indicated to the county that he simply needs more time to come up with an underwriter willing to bond him. 

But one bonding company that declined to underwrite his $410,000 bond said Matthews was ineligible due to "information found during our underwriting review,” according to a letter from the bonding agency to the county. Credit history and past employment are likely factors in issuing a bond. Matthews has failed to pay his own taxes on time three to four times. His employment history includes over half a dozen jobs over the past decade. He also has two civil claims pending against him for unpaid accounts and credit card debt.

See the print edition of The Smoky Mountain News Wednesday for more complete coverage.

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