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Federal Assistance to be Awarded to 18 Counties Harmed by June Flooding

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; August 14, 2014:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced President Obama has declared 18 counties as federal disaster areas as a result of severe weather on June 5-10. State and local governments and electrical utilities spent nearly $10 million in response to and recovery from the wind damage and flash-flooding impacts.

“This federal aid will help our communities in rebuilding and recovery,” Haslam said. “State and local teams worked quickly to survey damage in more than 35 counties to determine the impact of these storms, and we are grateful for this assistance.”

Anderson, Bledsoe, Carroll, Decatur, Henry, Hickman, Houston, Lawrence, Lewis, Madison, Marion, Maury, McNairy, Moore, Perry, Roane, Sequatchie, and Tipton counties will have access to federal assistance that provides reimbursement for 75 percent of eligible costs. A presidential disaster declaration also includes FEMA’s hazard mitigation grant program on a statewide basis.

Three fatalities were attributed to the severe weather and flooding. Two deaths occurred in Lawrence County and another in Hickman County.

The National Weather Service confirmed two tornado touchdowns were part of the storm system. The first tornado, an EF-1 with wind speeds in excess of 80 m.p.h., left a 12-mile debris path across Lake and Obion Counties on June 7. The other confirmed tornado, rated an EF-0, touched down in Kingston, Tenn. More than 28,000 customers were left without power due to wide-spread damage from downed trees and broken power lines.

The disaster declaration provides FEMA’s Public Assistance to the declared counties for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and rebuilding and repairing roads, bridges, water control facilities, buildings, utilities and recreational facilities.

Additional information about state and federal assistance for affected counties will be released as details become available.

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$620K Missing from County Coffers

More than $620,000 was missing from county government coffers as of the most recent check by the comptroller’s office, according to a report issued by the office today.

The cash shortages, originally amounting to $1.6 million, date back to 1996-97 and were spread over three dozen counties, the report says. Included in the report are details of missing money in Monroe, Hickman and Morgan counties, which we’ve blogged on here before.

More coverage: Knoxville News-Sentinel

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County Corrections Agency

Hickman County officials should tighten control over the jail commissary, auditors said in a recent report on county finances, after finding the fund was in the red amid sloppy paperwork and management — in some cases, an inmate was issuing receipts for collections.

According to paperwork sheriff’s department officials provided, the inmates’ accounts had a negative balance of $7,500. For more than two dozen transactions totaling $4,100, there was no supporting documentation.

The findings were presented in a state comptroller’s office audit of county finances in fiscal year 2010.

The audit also said that no one at the county, its Health Foundation or school system has shown they can produce financial statements that comply with generally accepted accounting principles.

Auditors summarized some earlier work, which uncovered wrongdoing by Hickman officials.

The Hickman County Clerk’s office had a cash shortage of $4,600 as of mid-June, after state auditors discovered then-County Clerk Andrea Totty had manipulated the checking system to steal cash from the office.

Investigators also found that Totty had used her office to get free car tag renewals for herself and a friend, and that she’d taken an office computer home for her personal use.

Totty admitted to taking funds for her personal use and resigned in the wake of the investigation.

But she was not the only local official caught abusing her office.

The director of the Emergency Management Agency, Terry Cloud, and Emergency Medical Services, Michael Lynn, were found to have misappropriated drugs and supplies for their personal use.

Both pleaded guilty last year to official misconduct, but no restitution has been paid, and both employees are still on leave, the auditor’s report says.