Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett’s household checking account shows deposits that match undisclosed checks his wife wrote to herself in 2010 against his mayoral campaign fund, reports the News Sentinel.
On one statement, those deposits add up to more than 70 percent of all the money deposited that month into the Burchetts’ joint account, which subsequently was used to pay for mortgages, utilities, insurance, gas, credit cards and personal purchases.
Allison Burchett, who is seeking a divorce from the mayor, met with a News Sentinel reporter and editors to respond to her husband’s statement that he was unaware that she had written checks to herself from the Elect Burchett mayoral fund that were not revealed on campaign disclosure statements as required by law.
Allison Burchett allowed the journalists to review statements from the couple’s joint First Tennessee Bank checking account covering a period of several months during the mayor’s 2010 primary and general election campaigns.
But she would not release copies of the statements to the newspaper without the mayor’s permission. Burchett refused, saying: “I will not legitimize Allison’s conduct by agreeing to debate these issues in the newspaper nor release private information for that purpose. All of these issues will be thoroughly vetted in my divorce. This is an intensely personal and private matter and I intend to try to keep it that way.”
The News Sentinel reported June 24 that Allison Burchett wrote six undisclosed checks to herself totaling $15,053.56 from the mayoral election fund. She also wrote a check to herself for $4,250, listing it on the disclosure statement as reimbursement for payment to a company that has said it did no work for the Burchett campaign.
The day the story appeared, she was fired from her job at Clayton Bank, she said. She had been hired into the executive position shortly after the mayor’s election in 2010.
…Although she was not the campaign treasurer, Allison Burchett filled out her husband’s disclosure forms during the campaign and handled the “Elect Burchett” checking account. She did so, she said, under her husband’s direct supervision.
“Tim oversaw the campaign account, Tim instructed me to write the checks and Tim is the one that instructed me to deposit the checks into our joint bank account,” Allison Burchett, who filed for divorce in late April, said in a prepared statement. “Tim knows this and it is hurtful that he would feign ignorance of it to try to portray me as a villain or a thief. I am neither. I did trust him, and as far as I knew, Tim’s instructions for me to write the checks and to deposit these checks in our joint account were entirely appropriate.”
Tim Burchett denies the allegations, saying it was his wife’s job to manage the account while he focused on campaigning. He says the receipts supporting the campaign expenditures are at the couple’s home, which he can no longer access.
“As a result of these matters having been brought to my attention for the first time,” he said in a prepared statement, “I have initiated a complete review of every expenditure in my campaign account. That process has been complicated because all of the records are in the possession of my wife. I have and will continue to amend my campaign financial disclosures as required and a full reconciliation of the accounts will be completed. My wife, Allison Burchett, continues to discuss the matter with the News-Sentinel and has inappropriately provided them confidential information.”
Allison Burchett says she has no campaign expenditure receipts.
The statement for the Burchetts’ account in the weeks surrounding the election provide an example of how the campaign withdrawals and household deposits
The statement covered the period July 23, 2010, to Aug. 20, 2010, and included just four deposits.
– Tim Burchett’s then-state Senate salary of $1,836.39 for a month shown as a direct deposit
– A deposit for $2,628.41, matching the amount of a check that Allison Burchett wrote to herself from the campaign account Aug. 10, 2010, but which was not included on the disclosure form.
– A deposit for $2,937.62, matching the amount of a check Allison Burchett wrote to herself from the campaign account Aug. 16, 2010, but which was not included on the disclosure form
– A deposit for $5,513.48, matching an undisclosed $3,713.48 check Allison Burchett wrote against the campaign account Aug. 19, 2010, plus another $1,800.
The joint checking account statement also noted 54 withdrawals including mortgage payments on Allison Burchett’s home, the couple’s home, gasoline, telephone, utility and insurance bills, credit card payments and spa, restaurant and retail purchases.
Other monthly statements showed a similar pattern of deposits and spending.
Allison Burchett said the deposits into the joint checking account should prove she was not attempting the steal the money.
“If I had been trying to do something devious then I would have deposited the money into my personal account,” she said. “I wouldn’t have put it into our joint account as Tim told me to do.”
State law requires a candidate to report all contributions and expenditures. It forbids converting campaign contributions to personal use. Each civil violation carries a $10,000 fine. The candidate — in this case, Tim Burchett — is ultimately responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the reports.