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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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Press Releases

THP, Marion Co. Sheriff’s Dept. Charge 6 in 2-year-long $1.8 M Cargo Theft Scheme

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Safety; October 8, 2012: 

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Highway Patrol Criminal Investigations Division (THP-CID), along with the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, charged 6 individuals on Monday for an elaborate scheme of allegedly stealing tractor trailer loads of cargo worth $1.8 million over the last 2 years.

Investigators say that Jay Sanders, Monteagle, Tenn., and Gary Alto, Whitwell, Tenn., were employed by SCS Trucking in Whitwell. They were responsible for hauling loads of scrap metal from a company in Ashland City, Tenn. to South Pittsburg, Tenn. The two truck drivers allegedly devised a scheme in which they would pay off security guards at one plant and workers at another, and then divert the loads to Dodson Scrap Metal Yard in Whitwell. The owners of Dodson Scrap Metal Yard, Randall and Melissa Brown, allegedly would not document receiving the metal and would haul it on their own tractor trailer to a scrap metal dealer in Alabama for cash. The scheme has allegedly been ongoing since at least 2010.

Investigators charged Jay Sanders, Gary Alto, Randall Brown, Melissa Brown, James King, and Craig Meeks each with theft of property over $250,000. Theft over $250,000 is a class A felony which carries a standard sentence of 15 – 25 years in prison.

“Cargo theft is a nationwide issue with a significant impact on the United States economy. It is estimated that cargo crime accounts for a direct merchandise loss of $15 to $30 billion per year. Virtually all goods manufactured domestically and internationally are transported by truck and train within the continental U.S. Studies indicate that 80 percent of all cargo thefts are ‘inside jobs,’” stated Sergeant Matthew Minter with the THP-CID.

Jail booking photos of the suspects may be obtained from Marion County Sheriff’s Department.

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Bidless Business in Marion Co.

Marion County officials failed to get competitive bids for sheriff’s vehicles totaling $259,600 and did not follow the notice requirements in soliciting bids for a $104,000 oven hood for the school system, state auditors found in a review of the county’s finances for fiscal year 2010.

Auditors with the state Comptroller’s Office also faulted the school system for lax policy concerning county-issued credit cards. The school board had not adopted written guidelines for use of the cards, and officials could not provide documentation supporting more than $10,000 in credit card purchases.

Auditors found problems in purchasing. The schools department had issued some purchase orders after the purchases were made, defeating the purpose of the paperwork, and the county mayor’s office paid some invoices without documentation that the goods or services had been received.

Auditors highlighted cases of misappropriated money implicating a husband and wife.

The former secretary/treasurer of the Haletown Volunteer Fire Department, Billy Joe Henegar, was indicted in October after auditors found that he had cut checks totaling $92,600 for his personal expenses and kept some cash donations.

Henegar’s wife, Holly, the former county elections administrator, was also indicted in October after auditors uncovered warrants totaling $27,000 issued for work that was not performed.

Read more in the local coverage of auditors’ findings and the couple’s arrests.

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Press Releases

Comptroller: Marion County Election Office Ordered Fraudulent Payments

State of Tennessee Press Release; Aug. 26, 2010:

Marion County’s former administrator of elections ordered more than 100 warrants issued on behalf of individuals who had not performed work for the local election office, an investigation by the Comptroller’s Division of County Audit has concluded.

The investigation was conducted with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at the request of the local district attorney’s office.

Between July 1, 2003 and March 31, 2010, investigators discovered that Holly Henegar, who at the time was Marion County’s administrator of elections, ordered 107 warrants issued to 34 individuals. The warrants were to pay for elections-related work done by those individuals, including several young children.

Investigators concluded those individuals did not perform the work for which they were being paid and instead the proceeds from the checks, totaling $27,170.93, were being funneled to Henegar’s husband, Billy Joe Henegar.

Investigators suspect Billy Joe Henegar, who has been receiving disability compensation since 1991, apparently sought the payments through other parties to protect his disability status and to avoid reporting the extra income to Social Security or the Internal Revenue Service.

The Tennessee Department of State’s Division of Elections conducted a separate inquiry into the operations of the Election Office earlier this year. As a result of that investigation, the State Election Commission scheduled a hearing to discuss whether Holly Henegar should be decertified as an election administrator. Holly Henegar resigned from her post last April, prior to the hearing.

The Comptroller’s investigation found several other deficiencies in the manner in which the Marion County Election Office requested and received payments. For example, the office submitted requests for payment to the County Mayor’s office that did not include sufficient documentation about the reasons for the payment, dates and hours worked by employees and certification by both the administrator of elections and the supervisors at polling precincts.

Also, the investigation found that Holly Henegar improperly appointed election officials, including city and county employees, when those appointments should have been made by the Marion County Election Commission.

And some county election commissioners were paid for meetings they had not attended.

Gary Reames, who replaced Holly Henegar as administrator of elections, vowed to take the corrective steps recommended by the auditors.

“It is unacceptable to have any type of fraud, waste or abuse at any level of government,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “This type of fraud was particularly egregious because it involved using small children as a smokescreen to conceal improper payments. The individuals responsible for this should be ashamed of the manner in which they have abused the public trust.”

“I want to compliment the efforts of all parties involved in investigating this matter,” said Jim Arnette, director of the Comptroller’s Division of County Audit. “Our staff did an excellent job of documenting the misuse of funds by the Marion County Election Office. The Comptroller’s office is committed to eliminating fraud, waste and abuse of public funds.”

To view the report online, go to: http://www.comptroller1.state.tn.us/repository/CA/2010/Marion%20Co.%20Election%20Office.pdf