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Lewis County Trustee Office Audit Finds Personal Use of Public Funds

Press Release from the Tennessee Comptroller’s office; Oct. 21, 2013:

An audit by the Tennessee Comptroller’s office has found Lewis County’s trustee improperly took more than $44,000 of public funds for personal use. In addition, the trustee made accounting mistakes that overstated the amount of cash his office had in the bank by more than $173,000. The report was released today by the Comptroller’s Division of Local Government Audit.

The trustee withheld all or part of 24 deposits that were supposed to be deposited into the office’s bank account. He also wrote himself seven checks payable to himself or to cash that didn’t appear to have any business purpose related to the office.

Information about the cash shortage in the trustee’s office has been reviewed with the local district attorney general, the state attorney general and the county mayor.

The audit also found mistakes in other departments within Lewis County government. These mistakes included failure to properly document purchases; failure to pledge adequate securities to protect county funds above Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation coverage; failure to have employees operate from separate cash drawers and to use separate computer usernames for more accountability; failure to properly spend money from the sheriff’s department’s confidential drug fund; and failure to properly assess property within the county for tax purposes.

“In all, our auditors had a total of 22 findings – which is an unacceptably high number,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “I hope and expect that county officials will take the corrective steps recommended in the audit so these errors do not occur again in the future.”

The report can be found online at: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/la/.

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TN AG Files Suit for Removal of Lewis County Trustee over Missing Funds

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper; September 19, 2013:

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper has filed suit seeking the removal of Lewis County Trustee Clark D. Carroll from office for allegedly stealing approximately $45,000 from his office and falsifying financial records to conceal the theft, Cooper announced today.

The ouster lawsuit was filed Wednesday afternoon in the Lewis County Circuit Court based on information uncovered during a Tennessee Comptroller’s audit. Carroll was elected as Lewis County Trustee and took office on Sept. 1, 2010. The suit alleges that he wrote checks payable to himself or to cash and failed to deposit cash received by his office for the payment of property taxes on numerous occasions totaling approximately $45,000 between Oct. 24, 2011 and June 15, 2013. The lawsuit further alleges Carroll admitted to state investigators that he unlawfully took the funds for personal use.

As Trustee of Lewis County, Carroll is paid $58,739 per year to collect taxes from Lewis County citizens. His term expires Aug. 31, 2014. Based on state law, the Attorney General is required to investigate allegations of wrongdoing and institute ouster proceedings against a public officer if there is reasonable cause to believe the officer has violated the law in connection with the duties of his office.

The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury began conducting an annual audit of Carroll’s office in July 2012. Auditors found that Carroll wrote checks from the county’s bank account to himself and subsequently cashed the checks. The audit also found that cash received by Carroll’s office had not been deposited into county accounts. Further investigation revealed that Carroll fabricated information on check memos, check stubs, and false receipts for deposits. The lawsuit cites Carroll for theft of property, official misconduct, forgery, failure to deposit official funds, and failure to reimburse public funds.

The Attorney General’s Office has asked the Court to suspend Carroll pending final adjudication of the case and has requested a hearing.