Recent Miscues and Misdeeds in TN Local Government

Theft in Collierville
Two Collierville officials have asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to examine the town’s Parks and Recreation Department to determine if there is a pervasive culture of theft that goes beyond the recent firing of three employees for stealing gasoline, reports the Commercial Appeal.
Collierville Aldermen Tom Allen and Billy Patton asked Shelby County Dist. Atty. Amy Weirich and TBI to investigate. They said interviews of the three fired employees by police detectives alleged rampant petty theft that needs investigation by officials who aren’t town employees.
“I’m not going to be a trustee for the town and have alleged thefts going on on my watch and under my name,” Patton said. “We just had a 22 percent property tax increase and spent a million dollars on synthetic turf fields. We need this investigated properly to show the town that we are good stewards of their money.”
Town Administrator James Lewellen received a report last month from Collierville police detectives who interviewed Derrick Stokes, Tim Collins and Carlos Blaylock, the men who were fired.
The trio said 16 people, the majority in the Parks Department, including a supervisor, and two Public Works employees regularly helped themselves to weed trimmer cord, fertilizer, weed killer, flowers and gasoline. Employees also took home town equipment such as weed trimmers and other items such as a tiller.

Tax Foulup in Knoxville?
A lawsuit alleges that some retired Knoxville firefighters and police officers have paid income taxes they did not owe because of erroneous information sent to them by the Knoxville Pension Board, reports the News Sentinel.
The lawsuit involves firefighters and police officers on disability pensions related to line-of-duty injuries. The errors date back as far as 1988 and affect enough retirees to justify a class-action lawsuit, retired Knoxville Fire Department Capt. Derrell Frye states in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Knox County Chancery Court.
“IRS tax forms were improperly issued indicating that their benefits were taxable,” when they were in fact not taxable, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit seeks “damages resulting from the payment of federal income taxes on benefits that were exempt from such taxation,” plus interest.
No dollar amount is stated. Frye is the only plaintiff so far but argues that the number of affected people, when beneficiaries and estates of deceased recipients are included, could be between 350 and 500, thus the claim for a class-action case. Defendants include the city of Knoxville, the Knoxville Pension Board and the City Employees’ Pension Fund.

Super Sloppy Bookkeeping in Shelby?
Financial controls were so weak at Shelby County Chancery Court, according to the Commercial Appeal, that receipts and disbursements went unrecorded in ledgers, clerks had unbridled power to write huge checks and bank reconciliation was late and at times wasn’t done at all.
These are among the findings in a Shelby County internal control study released late Thursday. The study, conducted in response to a three-year, $1 million theft of surplus funds owed Shelby Countians who lost homes in tax sales, found an abundance of inadequate controls and blatant, often illegal, actions, including:
Forged judicial orders dummied up to tap funds from nonexistent tax sales
Tax sale deposits co-mingled with other funds held by the court
Confusing, antiquated manual ledgers and receipt books that fail to log transactions in numerical order Interim Chancery Clerk John Robertson, appointed this week to help clean up the mess, said he and his staff are already working to correct problems.

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