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Comptroller: State Worker Stole $53K from Morgan Co.

Press release from the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury; June 4, 2012:

An administrative secretary used a variety of schemes to steal at least $53,412.78 from the Morgan County Soil Conservation District, an investigation by the Comptroller’s Division of Local Government Audit has revealed.

The administrative secretary, Sharlene Justice, forged signatures of the district board’s chairman on checks and timesheets dating back at least to 2008. The administrative secretary wrote checks to herself and to family members.

A portion of the unreceipted cash collected by the administrative secretary was eventually deposited and a forged check written by Ms. Justice was returned by the bank due to insufficient funds. This reduced the cash shortage to $44,727.08.

The report noted that the soil district’s board of directors failed to provide adequate oversight over the district’s operations and that safeguards that might have detected the thefts sooner were lacking.

For example, auditors noted that Justice was responsible for all aspects of financial transactions, which meant no one on the district staff double checked her work. Also, the district issued only generic receipts, which made it difficult to determine if office funds were being properly receipted and deposited. The lack of oversight was further illustrated when the chairman of the board advised that his signature had been forged on checks and timesheets since at least 2008.

“It is very important that government entities practice good internal controls in accounting and bookkeeping,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “Internal controls are basically a set of checks and balances that help make sure that public dollars aren’t subject to fraud, waste or abuse. As this case clearly illustrates, there can be consequences for governments that don’t have good internal controls.”

The findings of the report, which was released today, were forwarded to the local district attorney’s office.

On May 21, the Morgan County Grand Jury indicted Justice on one count of theft over $10,000. On May 23, she was arrested by officers from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

To view the report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/la/SpecialReports.asp.

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NewsTracker

$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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NewsTracker

Missing Cash Leads to Charges of Theft Against Morgan County Clerk

An east Tennessee county clerk took money home instead of depositing it to the office’s bank account, state auditors have found.

The auditor’s investigation — which identified more than $54,600 in missing funds — led to Morgan County Clerk Carol J. Hamby being indicted for theft, official misconduct and violation of a state law that requires public funds to be deposited within three days of receipt.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel has been reporting on the indictment and state comptroller auditors’ findings.

Under pressure from the investigation, Hamby returned more than $47,000, though some $7,400 was still missing as of late December, according to the report.

In a paraphrased response included in the audit, Hamby said she would not comment in detail because of the pending legal action but said she strived for “transparent record keeping.”

I made wrong decisions that allowed me to be in this situation. I have worked my absolute best to insure (sic) the customers had great quality service. All money was submitted to the Tennessee Department of Revenue, the Tennessee Department of Safety, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and any other state agency.

I focused heavily on some areas of my office and not heavily enough in others. … There are times I thought with my heart and not my brain. We all learn with age and experience.