News release from state Comptroller’s Office:
In the 2012 Report of Cash Shortages, auditors found that $563,372.50 of funds stolen from county governments, some dating back several years, had not been recovered. Details about the missing money can be found in the report, which was released today.
The news in the report wasn’t all bad: For the reporting period, auditors reported new thefts of $106,495.27 – down from $213,635.66 the year before. And – thanks to the recovery of $279,817.21 last year – the statewide balance of uncollected funds dropped from $736,694.44 cited in last year’s report to $563,372.50 in this year’s report.
Information about cash shortages is collected from the annual financial reports and special reports for the state’s 89 counties audited by the Comptroller’s Division of Local Government Audit and the six counties audited by private accounting firms.
In addition to a county-by-county breakdown of cash shortages, the report also provides explanations of how the shortages were detected, how the money was stolen, corrective steps taken by counties and legal actions taken against those responsible for the thefts.
“While it is good to see that the number of new thefts was down last year and a substantial amount of money was recovered, there’s absolutely no reason to be complacent about these statistics,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “It’s important for our local government officials to constantly remain on guard against the potential theft of taxpayer money. That means they need to have good checks and balances – what our auditors refer to as ‘internal controls’ – in their procedures for how money is collected, recorded, deposited and spent. If adequate safeguards aren’t in place, the amount of stolen money identified in future cash shortage reports is likely to rise.”
To view the report online, go to: http://comptroller.tn.gov/repository/CA/2012/2012%20Cash%20Shortage%20Report.pdf
The value of the government’s economic stimulus program has been a hot topic of debate, particularly during this political season, but — not surprisingly — the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act gets warm reviews in Oak Ridge, reports Frank Munger. The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge office received about $1.9 billion from the 2009 Recovery Act. About $1.2 billion of that windfall was designated for projects — ranging from environmental cleanup to construction of new research facilities — to be carried out in Oak Ridge. Now into the fourth year of the program, DOE still holds tens of millions of dollars to be spent in 2013.
While the precision of stimulus job counts has been questioned by the Government Accountability Office and others, DOE spokesman Mike Koentop said a total of 3,863 jobs had been created or saved in Oak Ridge as of the end of July. At that time, there were still 424 workers supported by Recovery Act funding, Koentop said.
Much of the Recovery Act work in Oak Ridge has been carried out with subcontracts, which end as projects are completed and don’t impact the regular contractor workforce at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Y-12 National Security Complex and other federal facilities. Because the work was spread out over four years, there haven’t been the huge employment spikes — followed by steep layoffs — seen at other DOE sites with a lot of stimulus money to spend.
“The economic benefit has been huge,” Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan said. “It’s spilled over into retail and housing and the services industry. It’s had a dynamic effect.”
Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais held a better than 7-to-1 cash advantage over Democratic challenger Eric Stewart as of Sept. 30 and is using it to dominate the television airwaves in their 4th Congressional District contest, reports Andy Sher. DesJarlais’ campaign declared Tuesday that Stewart is “running on fumes” with campaign manager Brandon Lewis saying, “Eric Stewart is a strong supporter of Barack Obama, a proponent of Obamacare and believes in the liberal borrow and spend policies that have exploded our national debt and ruined our economy.”
But Stewart campaign manager Kevin Teets retorted the campaign has seen a major turnaround since last week. That was when it was revealed that DesJarlais once encouraged a woman with whom he had had a relationship to get an abortion.
“We’ve seen a huge momentum in involvement, donations and support,” Stewart campaign manager Kevin Teets said Tuesday DesJarlais, a Jasper physician who touts his opposition to abortion, has acknowledged the 2000 transcript of the recorded conversation with the woman is genuine.
…The finance disclosures, filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission, cover the period from July 14 through Sept. 30. DesJarlais reported a $599,163 balance while state Sen. Stewart of Winchester disclosed just $84,849 on hand.
DesJarlais raised $193,477 while Stewart report $114,619 in contributions.
Since the disclosure period ended, DesJarlais has jumped onto Chattanooga and Nashville broadcast media with around $160,000 in ad buys, his campaign confirmed, noting Stewart has made buys only amounting to about $26,000.
The message at the 2012 Tennessee Tourism Governor’s Conference, held at Sevierville: the state is doing really well in attracting tourists, but could do even better with more money from state government.
Excerpts from a News Sentinel report: Gov. Bill Haslam and Gaylord Entertainment CEO Colin Reed told an audience of about 500 people that all Tennessee’s already burgeoning tourism industry needs is a cohesive Memphis-to-Mountain City initiative to ratchet it up even another level.
“If the tourism industry works together in a way that has never happened before and we coordinate our efforts and message, I think we can see an unprecedented return,” said Haslam.
…”We’re doing well, but we think we should double-down,” he said. “We feel we can do even better.”
…Reed, charged in April 2011 by Haslam to form a statewide tourism committee, presented several preliminary findings and suggestions.
…”This notion of culture and heritage where people seek real stuff is very important. We have the original birthplace of this stuff. We’ve got to package it, communicate it and bring it to life.”
Reed said the way to do that is get the myriad tourism organizations on the same page, brand their message and convince the state to appropriate more money for advertising and promotions.
Reed said he’s confident that Haslam will sign off on the committee’s final plan and recommendations, which he expects to be presented in the early part of December.
“I haven’t seen a governor committed to tourism like this governor,” Reed said.
The Chattanooga Times-Free Press takes a lengthy look at questionable activities in the 10th Judicial District – Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties – under District Attorney General R. Steven Bebb. According to the results of research and interviews done by the Times Free Press:
* Bebb and some of the people he oversaw routinely used public property and money as if it were their own — from cars to phones to cash.
…Bebb also is chairman of the board of the 10th District Drug Task Force, which brought in more than $5 million between 2007 and 2010, mostly from stopping drivers on Interstate 75 and seizing cash, vehicles and other assets, according to Department of Safety records.
The Times Free Press found that Department of Safety files show numerous cases where drug task force agents took large sums of cash from drivers on Interstate 75 without ever charging them with crimes and sometimes without finding drugs.
…he money drug task force agents took off the highway paid for them to travel the country for law enforcement conferences and training. Task force financial records show that the task force — with 14 to 16 agents — spent at least $100,000 between 2008 and 2010 on hotels, meals, mileage and airfare. They took dozens of trips to locations as close as Opryland and Gatlinburg and as far as Washington, D.C., Sandestin, Fla., and Charleston, S.C.
…Former DTF Director Mike Hall’s drug task force credit card was used to charge more than $50,000 between 2008 and 2010 on meals for himself, task force members and guests at local restaurants, as well as gifts, flowers and goodies for co-workers and office secretaries, credit card receipts show.
…In numerous cases, Bebb shelved TBI investigations into allegations of officer misconduct without taking action, state records and newspaper archives show. He routinely declined to charge cops for behavior that would have landed civilians in jail — from abusing prescription pills and beating up spouses, to shooting up a neighborhood with an assault rifle, to driving drunk and wrecking a vehicle with methamphetamine ingredients inside, records show.
…Court records and judges’ opinions contain repeated allegations and findings that 10th District prosecutors withheld evidence, tolerated and even participated in law enforcement misconduct, and violated judicial orders and defendants’ rights in criminal cases.
Big money in school board races is a growing phenomena. The City Paper has an interesting piece on a Nashville candidate who overcame a funding disadvantage. As her decisive victory began to crystallize, Amy Frogge picked up her cell phone to hear a reporter ask the obvious question: How were you able to overcome all that money?
Her answer, after finding a place to talk over cheers, was what anyone would say after months of door knocking, candidates’ forums and meet and greets: “Hard work.”
In a Metro school board election cycle that saw unprecedented amounts of dollars flow to candidates — more than $400,000 overall — Frogge knocked off the one with the most: Margaret Dolan, an Ingram Industries executive who used her network of heavyweight support to build a campaign war chest of $113,000, the highest figure ever collected for a Metro school board race.
It was a clear takedown of power brokers.
News release from National Institute on Money in State Politics:
When it comes to state elections, money and incumbency were key to success during the 2009-2010 elections-although not as much as they used to be. Two new reports from the National Institute on Money in State Politics examine the role that money and incumbency played in the 2009-2010 state elections, as well as how those two factors contributed to a state’s legislative competitiveness.
The reports, The Role of Money & Incumbency in 2009-2010 Elections and Monetary Competitiveness in 2009-2010 State Legislative Races found that 73 percent of legislative seats up for election were contested, up from 67 percent in 2007-08 and 69 percent in 2005-06. Races for 89 percent of the uncontested seats featured an incumbent. When seats were contested in the general election, the success rate of those with the incumbency advantage declined 7 percent from the comparable 2005-06 elections, and 9 percent from the 2007-08 elections. Candidates who had both the money and incumbency advantages dropped from 96 percent between 2005-06 to 88 percent between 2009-10. In the same time frame, the success rate of candidates with neither advantage increased by 4 percent.
LIVONIA, Mich. (AP) — Congressman Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan plans to donate his leftover campaign money to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
The Republican from the Detroit suburb of Livonia, who dropped his bid for another term earlier this month in a shocking political collapse, made the announcement in a statement Tuesday. Federal records show McCotter had roughly $193,000 in his campaign account as of March 31.
The Michigan attorney general has launched an investigation into why more than 80 percent of the signatures on McCotter’s nominating petitions were invalid. The problem developed after the five-term congressman gave up his little-noticed campaign for president and entrusted his staff to prepare his re-election paperwork.
McCotter’s district runs from the middle-class communities west of Detroit to wealthy Birmingham in Oakland County.
Tennessee lawmakers are gearing up for what could be an intense debate about police tactics, reports WTVF, which has been doing stories what is labeled “policing for profit” — or how some Tennessee police agencies routinely target out-of-state drivers for traffic stops, looking for large sums of cash that their agencies can keep on the suspicion that it’s drug money. “The intent of the bill (HB2334) is to make sure that all of those funds stay within law enforcement, just not specifically with the specific drug task force that is out seizing those funds,” said Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah.
When Dennis comes to Nashville, he travels through the 50-mile stretch of I-40 highlighted in our NewsChannel 5 investigation.
At least three drug interdiction units work that area, but our investigation found nine out of 10 stops occurring in the westbound lanes — that’s what agents call “the money side.”
“If they are concentrating solely on cash going one way, then they are abandoning the search for illegal substances coming in — and those substances do a great deal of damage to the citizens and children of our state,” Dennis said.
Under legislation he filed, agents could still seize cash that they believe to be illegal drug money. But that cash would no longer go straight back to the agency that seized it. Instead, it would go into a general fund for law enforcement. The state would then hand out grants to police agencies based on their needs.
Congressman Scott DesJarlais received more than $20,000 from political action committees associated with House Republican leaders in the past three months of 2011, observes The Tennessean, though he voted against the party line on occasion (and points that out in a news release on his first campaign radio ad of the year.) DesJarlais said campaign contributions from House leaders signal their support for his “independent voice.”
“I think they have grown to know where I stand in principle, and they respect that,” he said
…Lara Brown, a specialist on American politics at Villanova University, said DesJarlais and other tea party-backed freshmen don’t necessarily pay a price for breaking with party leaders.
“It’s not unusual for leadership to understand that certain members of the legislature need to distance themselves from the establishment, especially if their reputation was gained in some of these outsider activities such as the tea party movement,” she said. “It’s less expensive and strategically beneficial for the leadership to keep an incumbent, even if that incumbent doesn’t always agree with them. Then they can redirect resources to candidates who are more endangered.”