Education NewsTracker

Running Gov’t Like a Business

A Maury County couple in charge of a county events building charged renters an additional fee and pocketed the money, state auditors have found.

“We were advised by the building manager and her husband that they required renters to sign a a separate contract and pay a separate maintenance fee to them personally in addition to the county’s approved contract and fee,” the audit by the state comptroller’s office said. “Both stated that differing amounts were paid based on who rents the building, with the maintenance fee ranging from nothing to $200.”

The couple, Elmer and Pauline Cooper, did not comment in a story on the findings by The (Columbia) Daily Herald. County officials defended them.

The county mayor, district attorney and a county commissioner whose committee oversees the Memorial Building describe the situation differently than state auditors, saying the Coopers were being paid for after-hours cleaning performed outside their normal scope of duties. …

(County Mayor Jim Bailey Jr.) said his investigation into the matter found no evidence the couple did anything wrong or that their actions cost the county money.

In its written response to the audit, county officials said Pauline Cooper would cease cleaning up the building or collecting any fees. Elmer Cooper resigned at the end of December, after being questioned about the fees in November, according to the audit and the Daily Herald report.

The audit also found that officials had overspent, by more than $175,000 total, its funds for parks, general sessions court and other services. County officials said expenses outpaced appropriations because “some charges get through in the month of June after the County Commission has met, and we are unable to get funds appropriated before the year closes.”

The county schools spent $75,000 more than had been appropriated in two pots of money within the general purpose school fund, auditors found.