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Comptroller: Fmr. Jackson Co. Clerk Took Funds for Personal Use

Press release from the Office of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury; November 26, 2013:

A new audit released today on Jackson County details how the county clerk admitted to taking public money for her own personal use.

During the course of a routine audit of the county’s books, auditors discovered that more than $10,000 in collections hadn’t been deposited in the bank. Five days later, the county’s records indicated that the money had been deposited in the bank.

The clerk, Mary Jo Matthews, told auditors she had occasionally taken money for her personal use, but always replaced the funds. Matthews was indicted by the Jackson County Grand Jury in August and resigned from her job as clerk earlier this month.

The audit also uncovered numerous other problems in other county offices with bookkeeping and money-handling procedures, including delayed bank deposits, backdated purchase orders, incomplete leave records and unbudgeted expenses.

The audit, which was conducted by the Comptroller’s Division of Local Government Audit, can be found online at http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/la/.

“Obviously, it is very disappointing when someone in a position of public trust uses that position for personal gain,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “It’s also very disappointing that Jackson County had so many other issues, some of which have been discussed in audits from previous years. Jackson County should work with its newly-established audit committee to correct the internal control and noncompliance deficiencies noted in the audit report.”

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State: Audit of Davidson Co. Clerk Arriola Uncovers Corruption

Press release from Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury; Jan. 26, 2012:

Investigation Finds Issues Regarding Operations of the Metro Nashville County Clerk’s Office

The Metropolitan Nashville Davidson County Office of the County Clerk repeatedly collected improper fees from citizens, made an improper payment from funds maintained by the office, and engaged in poor payroll record-keeping, an investigation by the state Comptroller’s office has revealed.

The investigation was conducted by the Comptroller’s Division of County Audit with assistance from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Auditors found that between Sept. 1, 2006 and June 26 of last year, the office performed nearly 3,000 marriage ceremonies for which a $40 fee was usually charged to the marrying couples.

Numerous interviews with office employees and couples indicate the fees charged were not optional, which appears to conflict with state law.

The fees were placed in envelopes and personally delivered to Davidson County Clerk John Arriola. Auditors estimate that almost $120,000 was collected during the time period under review.

The investigation found numerous personnel and payroll issues, including:

• Arriola hired his campaign treasurer, Leighton Bush, as his office outreach coordinator, but could not document the hours Bush actually worked for the office or outreach projects he completed

• Arriola contracted with David Currey in a non-competitive process and paid his firm more than $40,000 for consulting work at the same time Currey was renting property from Arriola

• Payroll records revealed 63 employees in the office were compensated for overtime hours they did not actually work

• Employees solicited campaign contributions from staff during regular business hours and on at least one occasion some employees were asked to leave work early to attend a political fundraiser held on Arriola’s behalf. The investigation also found that the clerk’s office failed to turn over computer fees to the county general fund as required by state law. More than $65,000 as of June 30, 2011, was on hand in the clerk’s fee and commission account.

All of the findings and recommendations have been forwarded to the Davidson County District Attorney General.

To view the investigative report online, go to: Davidson County Clerk Special Report