Press Releases

Comptroller: Fmr. Wayne County Education Staff Responsible for $320K Shortage

Press release from the Office of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury; July 29, 2014:

Four former employees of the Wayne County School Department are to blame for a $319,134.58 shortage in school accounts. The Comptroller’s Office, in conjunction with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service began investigating after comptroller auditors discovered discrepancies during their annual audit.

Investigators confirmed the former grants coordinator and three former bookkeepers received $183,474.25 in unauthorized payroll payments and classified them to teacher salary account codes. These payments were in addition to their budgeted salaries.

Investigators also uncovered personal purchases on the School Department’s Wal-Mart credit cards. These purchases included more than $77,176.69 in gift cards and related fees, as well as $58,483.64 in groceries and personal items. The credit cards were assigned to the former General Purpose School Fund bookkeeper.

The investigative report outlines several concerns with the school system’s money-handling practices. Managers should ensure that no employee has complete control over payroll duties, and managers should regularly review credit card purchases.

School leaders indicate they have implemented new checks and balances to prevent a recurrence.

“There is no place for fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayer money in government,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “While these findings are troubling, I am hopeful that changes are being made to correct the problems we’ve identified, and restore trust in the School Department.”

To view the investigation online, go to:

Business and Economy NewsTracker Tax and Budget

Big-Box Coalition Wants Amazon To Pay Tax

The Chattanooga Times Free-Press is spotlighting print ads by a national retailers group trying to force and other online retailers to pay sales taxes. The ads can be seen in Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville, the paper reported Thursday.

The piece offers a nice wrap of the legal context, what’s going on in other states, and where the Haslam administration stands. (The home team is looking the other way on the tax issue, and it’s possible Amazon will secure a “letter ruling” formally exempting its planned East Tennessee distribution centers from collecting taxes, though Revenue officials are mum.) Read the whole story here.

It’s worth noting that the group running the newspaper ads, the Alliance for Main Street Fairness, is backed heavily by Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, and the like.

The irony was not lost on House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, who told the Chattanooga paper that Wal-Mart has “wiped out a number of Main Streets in Tennessee.”

While Tennessee welcomes Amazon, Illinois has taken a hard line, enacting a law requiring Amazon to collect sales taxes. California could follow suit. In Texas, lawmakers are seeking to address the tax question: at least two bills would force Amazon to collect sales taxes, and another would carve out an exception for Amazon. That state’s chief tax collector has said the retailer must pay up.