News release from state comptroller’s office:
A bookkeeper for the Henry County General Sessions Court Clerk improperly took almost $30,000 in court funds for personal use over a five-year period, an audit by the Comptroller’s Division of Local Government Audit has revealed.
Auditors were alerted to the potential problem after General Sessions Court Clerk Mike Wilson reported that some funds that were received in his office by mail were not recorded by the bookkeeper.
That prompted a wider look at the bookkeeper’s practices dating from Jan. 1, 2007 through Aug. 22, 2011. Auditors concluded that the bookkeeper pocketed cash paid to the office for court fines, costs and fees, then substituted checks received from other transactions that had not been recorded to reconcile the office’s records.
The bookkeeper was fired and the auditors’ findings have been shared with the local district attorney’s office.
Auditors said the bookkeeper had been allowed to manage all aspects of those fee collections, from the receipt of funds to the deposit and recording of them, which was a contributing factor that allowed the misappropriation of money to continue for such a long time.
Good accounting practices call for multiple employees to share money-handling responsibilities to reduce the opportunities for one individual to steal funds.
The audit also found that the offices of the county register and sheriff also had similar problems with failure to adequately separate money-handling responsibilities, although no funds were unaccounted for in those offices.
“The lack of proper segregation of duties is a common problem in local governments across Tennessee, but it is also one that creates the potential for serious fraud to occur,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “Having more than one employee involved in processing financial transactions sets up a system of checks and balances – what our auditors refer to as ‘internal controls’ – that can prevent the theft of public funds. I encourage other local governments to learn from what happened in Henry County and take appropriate corrective action.”
Among other recommendations, auditors also suggested that Henry County centralize its accounting, budgeting and purchasing operations and set up its own audit committee to review the financial reporting process, internal controls, the audit function and other best practices in financial management.
To view the full report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/la/SpecialReports.asp
News release from Capitol Resources:
(Nashville, TN)- Capitol Resources, the South’s leading government relations and lobbying firm, with offices across the region, is pleased to announce Tennessee Republican Party Executive Director Adam Nickas will head the firm’s office in the Volunteer State.
Nickas led the Tennessee Republican Party’s highly successful effort to expand the Republican majority in the Tennessee General Assembly, and he has worked on local, state and federal campaigns throughout the region.
Capitol Resources is one of the largest and most versatile state-based lobbying firms in the country, with offices in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee and Washington, D.C.
“Adam is an excellent fit for Capitol Resources,” said Henry Barbour, a partner in the firm. “His leadership is proven and his drive is unquestioned. The GOP gains in the Tennessee statehouse were noticed around the country, and he will be a tremendous asset to our clients.”
“Capitol Resources has an established reputation for excellent service to its clients throughout the South,” said Nickas. “I look forward to helping our clients achieve their objectives and working closely with the leaders and members of the Tennessee General Assembly and the Tennessee Executive Branch.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — State Sen. Douglas Henry has returned to the Legislature.
The Nashville Democrat was in the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. The 85-year-old lawmaker was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Tuesday for tests after he experienced high blood pressure and felt dizzy in a caucus meeting.
Henry has been a state senator since 1970. His District 21 seat represents southwestern Nashville, including some of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods
Chas Sisk, with the help of Sen. Douglas Henry, gets the names straightened out on plazas in the state capitol complex:
State Sen. Douglas Henry, a man who knows far more about Tennessee history than 95 percent of the population, left a message over the weekend to say that we’ve got it all wrong: That vast expanse next to the state Capitol and the War Memorial Building. It’s not Legislative Plaza. It’s “War Memorial Plaza.”
In Session did a little checking into this, and of course Henry is right. The name Legislative Plaza refers to the office building beneath the public square. That building opened in 1975, and the name Legislative Plaza quickly became attached to its roof as well.
But before there was Legislative Plaza, there was Victory Park, a public park that opened in 1925. That park was also known as War Memorial Park, as shown in this postcard that appeared in the recent American Civil Liberties Union’s suit filed on behalf of Occupy Nashville protesters. (The suit, by the way, also uses the name “Legislative Plaza.”)
State Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, recently sent the state a $97 check for sales tax due on his online purchase of books – but Action Andy Sher reports that’s a pretty rare thing in Tennessee. State figures show the state Revenue Department received only 3,041 consumer use tax returns in 2011. Those taxpayers remitted $4.78 million — about 1.3 percent of the estimated $365 million in sales taxes that went uncollected by out-of-state online retailers for the year.
Most payments appeared to be for big-ticket items such as cars, trucks, boats and furniture purchased not online, but across the state border, state figures show.
….The state shows relatively little appetite for going after consumers who make small online purchases, noted Dick Williams of Tennesseans for Fair Taxation.
That may make sense, Williams said.
“Part of the rationale for this is the tax is due, but it’s not realistic for the Revenue Department to spend a lot of time raising what individually would be small amounts,” Williams said. “Collectively it can be a significant amount.”
The Revenue Department does seek to track large purchases through third-party research and information exchanges with federal and state agencies, including U.S. Customs and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Linda Kelley, the department’s director of taxpayer and vehicle services, said officials last year issued 1,913 assessments for unpaid consumer use tax, including 267 assessments on aircraft.
And there’s a cost to not paying the tax, whether because of negligence or fraud, Kelley said in an email.
“If the failure to pay taxes is determined to be due to negligence, the taxpayer would face a penalty in the amount of 10 percent of the tax due along with interest,” she wrote.
In a fraud case, “the taxpayer would receive a 100 percent penalty along with the interest due.”
So what does Revenue Commissioner Roberts make of the situation?
“Obviously it is a concern to the State of Tennessee,” Kelley’s email stated. “However we believe this matter is best addressed at the federal level.”
The state’s last-minute offer to reinstate a $774,000 grant for a program at Chattanooga’s TEAM Centers has come too late to prevent the service’s planned Aug. 12 closure, the clinic’s director says.
More from Andy Sher: Too many employees already have accepted jobs elsewhere, interim Executive Director Peter Charman said Friday evening. But he said he and the board will work to reassemble a new staff to run the program that provides diagnostic and other services for developmentally and intellectually disabled children and adults.
“We will begin a recruiting effort immediately to look for new clinical staff,” Charman said, reading from a statement prepared by the board of directors. “Also, I’m talking to other agencies and clinical practices in the community to look for ways to deliver these important services to our patients.”
Tennessee’s Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities on July 13 decided against continuing the grant following a “top to bottom review” of spending and programs. Gov. Bill Haslam has ordered all agencies to conduct such reviews to streamline services and save money.
The grant funded what one parent has called a “once-in-a-lifetime” clinical program for children and adults with autism, cerebral palsy, other developmental delays and intellectual disabilities.
Disabled residents from across the state were referred to TEAM for speech, occupational and physical therapy, along with medical evaluations and treatment from experts.
But the newly created Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Department’s chief, Commissioner Jim Henry, had questioned the grant. He insisted his department was not supposed to be in the business of providing services for most children, although some advocates disagree.
The state originally had offered a final $193,000 grant to TEAM to keep the program running for three months so other sources of operational funds could be found or developed.
But once the department was told by TEAM officials that they would spend the grant on severance packages and other “shutdown costs,” the state withdrew the grant offer.
The Commercial Appeal focuses on a 20-year-old woman with multiple physical and mental disabilities in a Saturday story on cuts in the state Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD). Stephanie Domm now has two personal assistants to assist her in daily life at her Germantown home. That will change when the cuts take effect July 1. Stephanie will be one of 680 mentally or physically disabled people in the state who will see their benefits cut for personal assistants and one-on-one home nursing care.
…(DIDD) Commissioner Jim Henry sympathizes with the families who will see their services cut.
“This is very painful for us as a department. This is not easy,” he said.
After cutting $47 million, his agency’s budget is now $757 million. About $44 million in cuts came from phasing out or limiting the state’s institutional care.
With the changes, nursing services will be limited to 12 hours a day. Personal assistance services will be limited to 215 hours a month. No one will have two aides.
The changes likely will mean many families will either hire additional help, increase the work they do themselves or put their loved ones into community-based homes. If families refuse to comply with the new rules, the disabilities agency has threatened to kick them out of the program.
According to Henry, the state set up a system it couldn’t sustain. “There is no other state that offers families two personal assistants,” he said. “What we are offering is community homes or something else.”
“What they are doing is they are totally discounting the care the family provides,” countered Stephanie Domm’s mother, Virginia “Ginna” Domm. “Institutional care is not right for her.”
Henry also this week visited Greeneville, where 313 job positions are being abolished at the DIDD’s Greene Valley Developmental Center. The Greeneville Sun has a shortened version of its story available online (the full version requiring a subscription).