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Comptroller Investigation Finds Hamblen Co. Solid Waste Director Stole More Than $225K

Press release from the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury; March 5, 2015:

A special investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury has revealed the former director of the Hamblen County/Morristown Solid Waste System stole at least $227,972 in system funds. Ronald Brady admitted to Comptroller investigators that he used the money for his personal benefit. This investigation was completed in conjunction with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Investigators discovered Mr. Brady took system funds over a 3 ½ year period using several schemes. Mr. Brady issued unauthorized checks to himself totaling at least $196,206 from the solid waste system bank account and used the money for his personal benefit.

Mr. Brady also used the solid waste system’s American Express card to charge at least $31,785 in personal purchases. These purchases included vacations to Walt Disney World and other resorts, servicing his BMW and GMC Yukon, and a mattress that Mr. Brady requested to be delivered to his home. The charges were paid through the solid waste system’s bank account. Comptroller investigators also found Mr. Brady used solid waste system funds to make payments totaling $3,801 on a non-system credit card.

Mr. Brady destroyed, discarded, or altered solid waste system records to conceal his schemes. He was able to take the money without the knowledge or authorization of the solid waste system’s board. Ronald Brady resigned as director in February 2014.

On March 2, 2015, Ronald Brady was indicted by the Hamblen County Grand Jury on one count of theft over $60,000.

Comptroller investigators recommend the solid waste system implement checks and balances to ensure that one employee does not have complete control over a financial transaction from beginning to end. A credit card policy should also be established that allows all charges to be reviewed and documented.

“Solid waste customers make sacrifices each time they pay their bills,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “They must have confidence their dollars are being used appropriately, and it is shameful that a director would steal this money for his own gain.”

To view the special investigation online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/.

Comptroller Investigation Finds Fmr. Overton Co. PTO President Stole $10 K

Press release from the Office of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury; February 12, 2015:

A special investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury has found that Tara Scott, the former president of the Hilham Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization, stole at least $10,465 from the PTO. This investigation was completed in conjunction with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

During the period August 2012 through February 2014, Tara Scott failed to deposit concession cash collections totaling $5,520. The money was collected during volleyball and basketball games.

Ms. Scott told investigators she took collections home with her and placed them in a locked cash box under her bed. Ms. Scott said each time she retrieved the cash box in preparation for the next game, she noticed the box was empty. Ms. Scott claims the money was stolen again and again over a period of nearly two years. Tara Scott never alerted anyone to the missing funds, and she did not stop the repeated thefts.

Investigators also discovered that Tara Scott wrote PTO checks totaling $4,945 payable to herself or to “cash.” Ms. Scott admitted she used the proceeds for her personal benefit.

On February 2, 2015, Tara Scott and her husband, Lonnie Scott, were each indicted by the Overton County Grand Jury on one count of theft over $10,000.

“Parents play a vital role in their child’s education, and I commend honest parents who volunteer in Tennessee school groups,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. “Unfortunately, there are people who will use their positions to steal money. Simple checks and balances can help prevent theft.”

To view the special investigation report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/.

Comptroller Investigation Finds $3K Cash Shortage at Hardeman Co. Solid Waste Dept

Press release from the office of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury; February 4, 2015:

An investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has revealed a cash shortage of at least $3,062.72 in the Hardeman County Solid Waste Department.

Investigators found that a former employee failed to deposit the money she collected for solid waste fees. The former employee adjusted customer accounts to reflect an amount less than what was actually collected. Additionally, the former employee issued receipts to customers for funds that were never deposited.

The former employee admitted to investigators that “solid waste records show that I may have taken county money for personal usage.”

Comptroller investigators also questioned $9,071.44 in write-offs and adjustments made to customer accounts. These adjustments and write-offs were not supported with any documentation.

These findings have been reviewed with the district attorney general for the Twenty-fifth Judicial District.

Comptroller investigators recommend several changes to improve financial checks and balances within the Solid Waste Department. The changes include improving the oversight of customer accounts, developing written policies and procedures, and separating money-handling responsibilities within the office.

“This case is another example of how insufficient internal controls can lead to the loss of taxpayer money,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “I am pleased to see the county mayor indicate that changes are being made.”

To view the investigation online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/.

Comtproller Audit Finds Issues with Rockwood Economic Development Organization

Press release from the office of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury; January  29, 2015:

An investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has uncovered several issues related to Rockwood Revitalization, Inc., in Roane County, Tennessee.

Rockwood Revitalization was organized to stimulate downtown economic development for the City of Rockwood. The organization is primarily funded from grants and donations.

The investigation centered around a 2012 State of Tennessee, Department of Economic and Community Development, revitalization grant. The $15,000 grant was intended to help develop a new visitors’ center by including a public restroom.

Investigators found that Rockwood Revitalization did not comply with the grant contract. Although building materials were purchased, no work ever began on the visitors’ center during the grant period. Furthermore, in February 2014 Rockwood Revitalization submitted false information to TNECD by indicating the visitor center and restroom facilities were completed on the grant close-out report.

Rockwood Revitalization eventually used the purchased materials to develop and open a welcome center in October 2014.

Comptroller investigators also noted questionable business practices within Rockwood Revitalization, and found the organization did not follow its bylaws. All of the findings and recommendations have been reviewed with the district attorney general for the 9th Judicial District.

“Grant money can play an important role in spurring economic development throughout the state,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “Taxpayers deserve to know their money is being used appropriately and all the rules are being followed.”

To view the investigation online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/

Comptroller Audit Finds Continuing Issues in Wayne County

Press release from the office of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury; January 26, 2015:

Wayne County leaders have made some progress, but more needs to be done to correct the problems detailed in its annual audit by the Comptroller’s office.

The audit highlights 17 problems spread across several county offices. 12 of these findings were also cited in last year’s report but had not been corrected.

The office of the county executive accounted for nearly half of this year’s issues. All eight of the findings related to that office were also presented in last year’s report. The findings include problems with accounting, budgeting, purchasing, and payroll. Several issues with the Wayne County Board of Public Utilities, which is led by the county executive, were also noted.

Most of the other findings in the report concern financial management issues and poor internal controls, such as multiple employees operating from the same cash drawer and a failure to divide money-handling responsibilities.

Auditors also noted a Comptroller investigation of the Wayne County School Department released in July 2014. This report revealed a cash shortage of $319,134.58. This report can be viewed at http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/repository/ia/waynecountyschools.pdf.

“Last year our auditors reported 30 findings in Wayne County government,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “While I’m pleased to see some improvement, there is still much work to be done. The Audit Committee and county leaders must be serious about fixing these lingering problems.”

To view the audit online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/la/

Comptroller Audit Finds Questionable Expenses, Missing Cash at Clarksville-area HS Booster Club

Press release from the office of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury; January 22, 2015:

An investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has revealed a number of concerns related to the West Creek High School Coyote Cheer Booster Club (CCBC). West Creek High School is part of the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System.

Investigators found that the booster club had a cash shortage of at least $1,699 and had questionable expenses totaling $56,458.

The cash shortage stemmed from various fundraisers in which the money collected was not reconciled with the amounts that should have been collected based on the cost and sales price of the items sold. The CCBC’s lack of accounting records also made it impossible to determine if all collections were deposited into the CCBC bank account.

The questionable expenses related to the CCBC not following its bylaws requiring accurate records of club meetings, reviewing bills, approving disbursements, and ensuring that collections were appropriately documented in the accounting records.

The CCBC ceased operations on July 31, 2014. The Comptroller’s findings and recommendations have been reviewed with the district attorney general for the Nineteenth Judicial District.

“Booster clubs are non-profit groups led by parent volunteers who raise money in support of school organizations,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. “These groups are required to follow a financial policy that provides basic checks and balances to reduce the risks of fraud and theft.”

To view the investigation online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/

Comptroller: Fmr. Union Grove Volunteer Fire Dept. Treasurer Stole Nearly $5K

Press release from the office of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury; January 21, 2015:

A special investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has revealed that former fire department treasurer Donna Hurst stole at least $4,954 from the Union Grove Volunteer Fire Department in McMinn County.

During the period June 2012 through January 2013, Ms. Hurst cashed 21 unauthorized fire department checks that she wrote to herself and used the proceeds for her personal benefit. Ms. Hurst signed the fire chief’s name on all of these checks. Examples can be found in the investigative report.

Investigators also discovered Ms. Hurst stole an indeterminable amount of fundraiser collections. This money was gathered during the fire department’s “boot drive” and car wash fundraisers.

On November 18, 2014 the McMinn County Grand Jury indicted Donna Hurst on 20 counts of forgery and one count of theft over $1,000.

Investigators identified a lack of financial controls within the Union Grove Volunteer Fire Department. Ms. Hurst was allowed to receive collections, make deposits, sign checks, and she was the only official who reviewed bank statements. Fire department officials indicate they have corrected or intend to correct these issues.

“Tennessee’s volunteer fire departments often count on the public to financially support their operations,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. “It is vital that fire officials create oversight within their departments to safeguard public money.”

To view the special investigation report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/.

Comptroller: Problems in Fentress Co. Operations Nearly Double from Last Year

Press release from the office of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury; January 20, 2015:

Comptroller auditors found several new problems while examining the operations of Fentress County government. The annual report for the year ended June 30, 2014 identifies 15 areas of concern, up from eight the year before.

The findings are spread across a number of county offices and concern a variety of issues with financial management, business practices and internal control deficiencies. Of the 15 findings, five had been highlighted in the previous year’s report.

The audit details problems with Fentress County’s use of surplus property from the U.S. Department of Defense. Fentress County failed to maintain adequate inventory records of the surplus property it has obtained. Additionally, several trucks and a generator had been used by the Highway Department for road maintenance despite guidelines requiring surplus property to be used for law enforcement and counter-drug activities.

Auditors also noted two Comptroller investigations related to a theft at the Fentress County Public Library, and a cash shortage in the Sheriff’s Department. Both reports can be found at http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/.

“It concerns me to see a growing number of audit findings in Fentress County,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “I urge county leaders to consider our recommendations and implement the necessary changes. Last year’s investigative reports should underscore the need for reform.”

To view the audit online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/

TN Transportation Coalition: Comptroller Report on Transportation Funding ‘Timely, Insightful’

Press release from the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee; January 20, 2015:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The report released by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury today regarding challenges and options for transportation funding is timely and insightful. We should all recognize that we are at a crossroads in terms of our transportation infrastructure. Do we make the investment that will enable our state to meet the demands of the future?

We know good transportation infrastructure means safer roads and bridges for our residents and visitors. We know good transportation infrastructure is a key driver in economic development.

This may well be one of the most critical issues being faced by our state leaders this year. The comptroller’s report accurately notes that “Tennessee’s fuel taxes are not expected to be sufficient to maintain existing infrastructure and meet long-term transportation demands.” The state Department of Transportation has already identified more than $8 billion in projects that are backlogged due to lack of funding, and have stopped engineering work on new construction.

Members of the coalition are looking forward to working with our state leaders to identify possible solutions for this problem.

ABOUT THE TRANSPORTATION COALITION OF TENNESSEE

The Transportation Coalition of Tennessee was created to educate the public and state legislators as it seeks an increase and reform in Tennessee’s transportation fees. The coalition aims to recruit other interested parties to join in seeking a comprehensive funding solution to maintain and expand Tennessee’s critical transportation system.

Participants in the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee include businesses, citizens, community leaders, public officials and organizations that are interested in continuing Tennessee’s transportation infrastructure for the long haul.

The Transportation Coalition steering committee includes representatives from the Tennessee Infrastructure Alliance, Auto Club Group/AAA Tennessee, Tennessee Public Transportation Association, Tennessee Trucking Association, Tennessee County Highway Officials Association, Tennessee Municipal League, American Council of Engineering Companies of Tennessee and Tennessee Road Builders Association.

Tennessee is a pay-as-you-go state, with transportation projects funded primarily by state and federal fuel tax revenues. The dollars are apportioned for state and local projects, which include maintenance, repair and new construction.

For more information or to join the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee, visit the website at www.TransportationCoalitionTN. org.

A full copy of the comptroller’s report can be found at http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ repository/RE/Transportation% 20Report%20Final.pdf.

Ramsey Congratulates Constitutional Officers on Re-election

Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey posted the following two statements to his official Facebook page January 14, 2015:

In regard to the re-election of Justin P. Wilson as the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury: 

Congratulations to Justin Wilson on his re-election as Comptroller of the Treasury. Tennessee’s strong financial position is due in no small part to the work of Justin Wilson. As Tennessee’s money cop, Justin Wilson keeps watch every day to make sure Tennessee taxpayer dollars are being allocated efficiently and that any waste, fraud and abuse is identified and reported. I am extremely grateful that Tennessee will continue to benefit from his expertise, integrity and commitment to service.

In regard to the re-election of David H. Lillard, Jr., as the Tennessee Treasurer:

Congratulations to David Lillard on his re-election as Tennessee’s Treasurer. Tennessee’s retirement system is fully-funded and consistently ranked among the best in the nation. This isn’t just a matter of luck. It is due to the hard work and management skills of David Lillard. The state of Tennessee is extremely fortunate to have David at the helm at the Department of Treasury. I commend my colleagues for returning yet another resounding vote of confidence in his performance.