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NewsTracker Tax and Budget Transparency and Elections

More than $900K Missing from TN County Coffers Statewide

Taxpayers in Tennessee are owed more than $910,000 that has been stolen or cannot be accounted for, a state Comptroller’s report shows.

That figure represents the amount of money that county offices were still short at the end of fiscal year 2011, after audits revealed the missing money. County offices recovered more than $1.1 million of wayward funds last year.

The report reads like a how-to manual for public malfeasance.

In Davidson County, a worker in the Metro Trustee’s office was involved in a scheme of stealing tax payments and then using future tax payments to cover up the thefts. More than $215,000 was stolen, and as of the end of June 2011 more than $90,000 was still outstanding.

Williamson County has the ignoble distinction of the largest outstanding balance. A bookkeeper in the animal control department, pleaded guilty to theft in November 2010 and was sentenced to eight years’ probation and ordered to pay back the $106,447.17 she had stolen. Auditors found the woman had “manipulated payroll logs, employee timecards and other documents” over five years, the Tennessean reported at the time. But as of last June, no restitution had been paid, the comptroller’s report says.

Unauthorized scrap-metal diversions are popular statewide, a theme picked up on by WPLN.

The comptroller’s office found workers taking the metal from the county trash heap, then reselling it, in six counties: Overton, Cumberland, Gibson, Johnson, Hardin and Cannon. The metal was worth at least $29,827.68, though likely much more because in half the cases auditors could not determine a value for the missing scrap.

The Comptroller report noted:

Section 5-9-401, Tennessee Code Annotated, states that “All funds from whatever source derived, including, but not limited to, taxes, county aid funds, federal funds, and fines, that are to be used in the operation and respective programs of the various departments, commissions, institutions, boards, offices and agencies of county governments shall be appropriated to such use by the county legislative bodies.”