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Haslam Requests SBA Disaster Recovery Assistance for Severe Flooding

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; July 31, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has requested assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to help individuals and businesses in Sullivan County and its contiguous counties recover from the severe storms and flash flooding that occurred on July 20-21, 2013.

The additional Tennessee counties that would be eligible for SBA loans are Carter, Hawkins, Johnson and Washington as damage to homes and businesses occurred in multiple locations.

A joint Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) and SBA damage survey shows more than 88 homes and 65 businesses in Sullivan County sustained minor/major damages and loss of inventory. There was one reported death due to the storm.
“Tennesseans continue to recover from this storm, and SBA assistance would help these communities restore their homes and businesses,” Haslam said.

The SBA provides low interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes, and private, non-profit organizations to repair or replace real estate, personal property, machinery and equipment, inventory and business assets that have been damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster.

From July 20 to July 21, 2013, a severe weather front in east Tennessee spawned numerous severe wind shears and strong thunderstorms with straight-line winds often exceeding 30 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service. Flood and wind damage occurred in multiple locations.

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Press Releases

Former East TN Water Division Employee Indicted on Charges of Theft, Fraud

Press release from the Office of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Justin Wilson; May 23, 2013:

Following a review by the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations, the former clerk of the Watauga River Regional Water Authority/North Elizabethton Water Division surrendered to the Carter County Sheriff’s Office this month after being indicted on charges of theft, forgery, official misconduct and credit card fraud.

The Comptroller’s review found the former clerk, Lori Beth Feaster, had stolen cash utility collections, made personal purchases with district credit cards and took unauthorized check payments that amounted to tens of thousands of dollars.

Feaster used some of the agency’s funds to cover personal expenses such as a battery and windshield wipers for her car and an energy efficient front-loading clothes washer.

In a report released today, the Comptroller’s investigators detailed how, in just two years, Feaster stole approximately $44,174 of ratepayer funds while handling and accounting for utility collections at the agency.

Investigators noted that it was Feaster’s ability to collect money, prepare bank deposits and sign checks on behalf of the agency without sufficient oversight which presented her with the opportunity to steal public funds. She capitalized on that situation by issuing more than $23,000 in checks to herself, taking more than $15,000 in cash utility collections and making more than $4,000 in fraudulent credit card purchases – all the while falsifying agency records to cover her tracks.

Feaster concealed $23,743 in checks made out in her name by fraudulently recording the payments in the agency’s accounting records as payments to a backhoe vendor. She also shorted cash utility deposits by at least $15,506. In one instance, Feaster changed a $6,974.34 bank deposit slip prepared by another employee to $5,974.35 and kept $1,000 for her personal use.

“Theft or misuse of public funds is unacceptable, whether those funds come from tax dollars, utility bills or any other sources,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “These types of crimes need to be taken as seriously as any other type of theft.”

“The failure to adequately separate financial duties, as was the case here, is the most common weakness in accountability that allows for thefts of public funds to occur,” says L. Rene Brison, Assistant Director of the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations. “It is imperative that all public officials and employees put adequate safeguards in place to prevent any single employee from having sole responsibility for each step in the collections and disbursements process.”

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

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Press Releases

Haslam Appoints Street to Replace Brown in First District Criminal Court

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; April 16, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced attorney Stacy Street as the Criminal Court Judge, Part II, for the First Judicial District, effective immediately.

Street takes over for former Judge Lynn Brown who resigned at the end of March after serving in the position since 1988. The First Judicial District includes Carter, Johnson, Unicoi and Washington counties.

“Stacy has extensive trial experience from his time in the private sector,” Haslam said. “His experience, demeanor and respect for the court will benefit the citizens of the First Judicial District. I want to congratulate him for earning this new challenge, and I appreciate his willingness to serve.”

Street has practiced law out of Elizabethton since 1992 after graduating cum laude from East Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee College of Law. He began as an associate in 1992 with the Hampton & Hampton firm, making partner four years later and leaving the firm in 2009 to become a solo practitioner.

“I am incredibly excited to serve the First District, and I am thankful to Gov. Haslam for this appointment and this new opportunity,” Street said.

He has trial experience in Carter, Johnson, Unicoi, Washington, Sullivan and Greene counties as well as in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee.

Street, 46, lives in Elizabethton. He and his wife, Susan, have two children and attend Calvary Baptist Church in Elizabethton.