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Comptroller Audit Finds Questionable Expenses, Missing Cash at Clarksville-area HS Booster Club

Press release from the office of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury; January 22, 2015:

An investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has revealed a number of concerns related to the West Creek High School Coyote Cheer Booster Club (CCBC). West Creek High School is part of the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System.

Investigators found that the booster club had a cash shortage of at least $1,699 and had questionable expenses totaling $56,458.

The cash shortage stemmed from various fundraisers in which the money collected was not reconciled with the amounts that should have been collected based on the cost and sales price of the items sold. The CCBC’s lack of accounting records also made it impossible to determine if all collections were deposited into the CCBC bank account.

The questionable expenses related to the CCBC not following its bylaws requiring accurate records of club meetings, reviewing bills, approving disbursements, and ensuring that collections were appropriately documented in the accounting records.

The CCBC ceased operations on July 31, 2014. The Comptroller’s findings and recommendations have been reviewed with the district attorney general for the Nineteenth Judicial District.

“Booster clubs are non-profit groups led by parent volunteers who raise money in support of school organizations,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. “These groups are required to follow a financial policy that provides basic checks and balances to reduce the risks of fraud and theft.”

To view the investigation online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/

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Press Releases

TN Supreme Court Rules Gov’ts Must Compensate Property Owners for ‘Regulatory Taking’ of Property

Press release from the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts; August 18, 2014:

The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that the State Constitution, like the United States Constitution, requires the government to compensate private property owners when governmental decisions, restrictions, or regulations take or interfere with private property interests.

The lawsuit was brought by Mack and Leann Phillips, who own more than 15 acres near Clarksville and who in 2010 sought permission to have the land subdivided. The Clarksville Montgomery Regional Planning Commission held a public hearing and then denied the request.

The property owners sought review of the Planning Commission’s decision from the Chancery Court but also filed suit in Circuit Court against Montgomery County, claiming that the denial of their request to subdivide the property amounted to a taking of their property for which Montgomery County owed them compensation. In legal terms, the property owners’ claim is known as a “regulatory taking” of property. The property owners asserted the denial of their request was based only upon the fact that their land lies in the path of a potential highway extension. The property owners based their claim on the Tennessee Constitution alone and did not rely upon the United States Constitution.

The property owners’ Chancery Court appeal from the Planning Commission’s decision remained unresolved, although such appeals should and normally do proceed quickly, but their state constitutional regulatory takings claim proceeded. The Circuit Court denied the County’s request to dismiss the lawsuit, but the County appealed. The Court of Appeals dismissed the regulatory takings claim, but the landowners then appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court reversed the dismissal. The Supreme Court explained that under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, property owners may seek compensation when government action results in a taking of property. Property may be taken, the Court explained, by an actual physical occupation or by government regulations or actions that interfere with a property owner’s use of the property. This latter type of taking is known in legal terms as a regulatory taking.

Until today, no prior Tennessee court had decided whether the State Constitution, like the U.S. Constitution, requires the government to compensate property owners for regulatory takings claims. Previously, Tennessee courts have addressed only physical occupation and nuisance-type takings claims. In its decision today, the Court discussed the similarities between article I, section 21 of the Tennessee Constitution and the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and held that the State Constitution protects the right of Tennessee property owners to receive compensation for a regulatory taking of property to the same extent as the United States Constitution.

The Court remanded the claim before it to the trial court to determine whether, on the facts of this case, the Commission’s denial of the property owners’ request to subdivide their land actually amounted to a regulatory taking of property under the Tennessee Constitution for which compensation is due.

Read the Opinion in Mack Phillips et al. v. Montgomery County, authored by Justice Cornelia A. Clark.

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Press Releases

Haslam, Alexander Break Ground on Montgomery Co. Veterans Home

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs; May 17, 2013:

Governor Haslam Breaks Ground on New Montgomery County State Veterans Home

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder today announced the upcoming construction for the Montgomery County Tennessee State Veterans Home. Haslam was also joined by U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Speaker Pro Tem Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville), Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan, Montgomery County Mayor Carolyn Bowers, Tennessee State Veterans Homes Director Ed Harries and Tennessee State Veterans Homes Board Chairperson Mary Ross as well as several members of the Tennessee State Veterans Homes Board.

The new state veterans home will be located at 250 Arrowood Drive in Clarksville. Construction on the new site is scheduled to begin in August.

“We are incredibly thankful for the service and sacrifice by these men and women, and we’re excited to break ground on this facility that will serve the veteran community in Clarksville and Montgomery County,” Haslam said. “Tennessee is raising the bar on long-term health care for veterans at the three existing Tennessee State Veterans Homes, and we look forward to serving even more of the veteran population who has given so much of themselves.”

“The men and women who have worn the uniform of our Armed Services have ensured that the rest of us can exercise our freedoms daily,” Alexander said. “We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude and couldn’t possibly do enough to honor their sacrifice, but serving them at this facility is a stepp Tennesseans can be proud to take.”

The Ben Atchley State Veterans Home in Knoxville and Tennessee State Veterans Home in Murfreesboro have both been listed among the best nursing homes in the country in the U.S. News & World Report 2013. Both received a five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in 2012.

The application to begin the process to build the new state veterans home began in 2004. Since then, the State of Tennessee Real Estate Asset Management (STREAM) Division with the Tennessee Department of General Services, the Tennessee State Veterans Homes Board and Montgomery County government officials considered and evaluated 13 different sites before the Arrowood Drive property was purchased for approximately $475,000. The site was approved by federal and state agencies and was donated by the county to be used as the future site for the new state veterans home. The State of Tennessee accepted and closed on the property on April 19, 2013.

Montgomery County and the City of Clarksville each contributed $750,000 to the project. The State Home Construction Grant Program with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has contributed $14.6 million. The State of Tennessee has contributed $10.8 million to the Montgomery County Tennessee State Veterans Home project to include $4.3 million in Governor Haslam’s budget for fiscal year 2013-2014.

“Although the Tennessee State Veterans Homes are self-sufficient after admissions begin, it takes a large amount of partnership, collaboration and contributions from federal, state and local agencies to construct new state veterans homes,” Grinder said. “This groundbreaking milestone is exciting because this will give Montgomery County’s veterans a high-quality of life option when around the clock health care is needed.”

The Montgomery County Tennessee State Veterans Home is expected to open in the first quarter of 2015.

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Press Releases

Haslam Announces SBA Disaster Declaration for Late-April Floods

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; May 10, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced today the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has granted his disaster declaration request for Stewart and its surrounding counties after severe storms and flash flooding occurred April 26, 2013.

The declaration includes Benton, Henry, Houston and Montgomery Counties, and an SBA disaster declaration makes homeowners and businesses affected by the disaster eligible for low-interest loans.

Those affected have until July 9, 2013, to apply for relief from the physical damage and until Feb. 10, 2014, to apply for relief from economic injury.

“This is good news, and these loans will help individuals whose homes and businesses were damaged more quickly recover,” Haslam said.

The interest rates for homeowners without credit elsewhere will be 1.875 percent. Loans for homeowners with credit elsewhere will be 3.750 percent. Interest rates for businesses will be four percent for those without credit elsewhere and six percent for businesses that have credit elsewhere.

Additionally, the SBA will open temporary offices to help homeowners and businesses with the disaster loan process. More information on SBA disaster loans is at: http://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/loans-grants/small-busi….

The damage survey in Stewart County identified 40 homes with major damage and 19 homes with minor damage. There were eight businesses identified with major damage and two businesses with minor damage. Damage assessment teams also identified three other structures in Stewart County with major damage.

From April 26, to April 28, 2013, a severe weather front brought heavy precipitation into middle Tennessee and parts of west and east Tennessee. The National Weather Service (NWS) reported heavy rainfall totals of up to six inches that resulted in localized flash flooding.

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Press Releases

2 Veterans Courts Receive Grants from TN Legal Education Commission

Press release from the Tennessee Courts System; April 8, 2013:

Two Tennessee veterans courts are the recipients of $40,000 in total grants from the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education & Specialization. The move is a result of an ongoing effort on several fronts to address the issues facing veterans and service members, particularly in light of the ongoing drawdown.

The Tennessee General Assembly recently passed a resolution urging the Tennessee Supreme Court to educate Tennessee’s judges regarding the importance of justice-involved veterans and service members and to take appropriate measures to support the creation of new veterans treatment courts and dockets in the state.

Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge; Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville; and Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge all have been instrumental in supporting efforts to champion veterans treatment courts in Tennessee. These funds will further those efforts.

The CLE Commission has earmarked a total of $100,000 for use as an incentive for courts throughout the state to seek education, training, and administrative support for these specialized courts and dockets serving veterans.

“Our organization is privileged to have the opportunity to support local courts and communities in providing these much-needed services to local veterans,” said Judy Bond-McKissack, Executive Director of the CLE Commission.

Veterans courts are specialized problem-solving courts that go beyond traditional judicial methods. They are long-term, judicially supervised, multi-phase courts designed to assist persons who have served (or are currently serving) in the military, who have been charged with a criminal offense, who are at high risk for reoffending absent intensive intervention, and who have significant mental health and/or substance abuse issues. Essentially, a veterans treatment court is a veteran-specific hybrid of a drug treatment court and a mental health treatment court.

In 2012, at the request of the Tennessee General Assembly, the Administrative Office of the Courts conducted an extensive study regarding the feasibility of creating a statewide system of veterans treatment courts.

The AOC found that allowing individual courts flexibility in handling the needs of the community was key to the success of the courts. The study went on to say that the most effective and cost-efficient method of assisting the largest number of men and women who have served this country is to permit each judicial district to incorporate the veteran-specific services into the court system’s existing framework, including the existing drug and mental health treatment courts.

“The Judiciary of the State of Tennessee is especially committed to seeking solutions for those within the criminal justice system who have given a portion of their lives to the service of their country,” said Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary R. Wade.

The Supreme Court, with the encouragement of the General Assembly, recently launched a task force charged with creating a veterans court model for future use in trial and general sessions courts throughout the state. Many of the members of the task force are judges who are active members of the National Guard.

Montgomery and Shelby counties are the only two Tennessee counties that have a freestanding veterans treatment court, and each will receive $20,000 from the CLE Commission to support training, operating and administrative costs.

“The CLE Commission believes this funding provides the support that is much needed to further the efforts of these very important segments of our judiciary,” said Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Cornelia A. Clark, who serves as the Supreme Court’s liaison to the commission.

The Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education & Specialization monitors CLE requirements and administers the specialization program for attorneys in the state of Tennessee. The funds are from administrative and non-compliance fees the commission has collected over several years. Members of the commission are appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

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NewsTracker Tax and Budget

Montgomery Co. Employees’ Health Insurance Fund Floundering

The health insurance fund for schools and county employees in Montgomery County had a more than $1.6 million deficit at the end of fiscal year 2010, state auditors found in an annual check of county finances.

The red ink stemmed from a spike in claims in April, though officials have worked to address the issue, management with the county and the Clarksville-Montgomery County School Department wrote in their response to the audit’s finding.

“Premiums were increase by 11.89 percent for the current fiscal year, and adjustments to the health plan were implemented, which appear to have adequately addressed the problem at this time,” management wrote in its response.