published Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Council OKs audit of department administrator


by Cliff Hightower
Audio clip

City Council meeting

The Chattanooga City Council authorized its audit committee to review whether a department administrator and another employee violated city laws and policies by using work time to market their business.

“It’s not a full-blown criminal investigation,” Councilwoman Carol Berz said. “It’s about if policy was followed.”

Department of Education, Arts & Culture Administrator Missy Crutchfield conceded last week she and department spokeswoman Melissa Turner had worked on their for-profit publication, Be Magazine, during business hours. The pair also cross-promoted the website on city newsletters and in advertising to local, private publications, a Times Free Press investigation found.

According to city code, any questions raised about ethics violations of city employees are to be investigated by the city attorney. But City Attorney Mike McMahan recused himself from that conversation Tuesday.

CITY CHARTER

The city’s Code of Ethics has specific provisions spelled out against employees using municipal time and facilities. The city’s code states:

* An official or employee shall not use or authorize the use of municipal time, facilities, equipment or supplies for private gain or advantage to himself.

* An official or employee shall not use or authorize the use of municipal time, facilities, equipment, or supplies for private gain or advantage to any private person or entity, except as authorized by legitimate contract or lease that is determined by the governing body to be in the best interests of the municipality.

Source: Chattanooga City Charter

“This is something I should not be investigating,” he said. “I’m too close to the situation.”

Council members debated for about 20 minutes about whether to send the matter to the audit committee or ask Crutchfield to come before the body’s Education, Arts & Culture Committee first to give her side of the story.

Councilman Andraé McGary, chairman of that committee, said it would be better to hear from Crutchfield.

“It’s my desire to have Missy come before us and hear the whole story,” he said.

Berz said having the administrator come before the council before an investigation could taint the process.

“I think it’s cleaner if you let it go to the audit committee,” she said.

Richard Beeland, spokesman for Mayor Ron Littlefield, said the council’s decision to refer the issue to the audit committee is an “excellent idea.”

“We want to make sure everyone’s questions are answered,” he said.

City officials said the audit committee will do a preliminary investigation to see if policies were followed. If not, the committee could ask city auditor Stan Sewell or an independent auditor to conduct a full-blown audit of the city department.

The council’s actions came after a Times Free Press investigation showed Crutchfield and Turner had been operating Be Magazine, under the parent company, Be Communications LLC, on city time.

Council Chairman Manny Rico said he wants to make sure the city is being transparent.

“There has been a problem here, and we know it,” he said.

Contact Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CliffHightower.

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Allison12 said...

The state needs to audit, yep Dan Johnson is objective. Just how do you get corruption out of government, is it possible?

September 29, 2010 at 8:44 a.m.
harrystatel said...

Dan Johnson,Littlefield's Chief -of-Stuff. Is this the same Dan Johnson who worked as Zack Wamp's primary campaign treasury during the last election?

Did Dan take a leave of absence while being Wamp's treasurer? OR is it more likely that Dan Johnson stayed on the City payroll while working for Wamp?

Yeah, Dan's a good one for the audit group.Who's going to audit Dan? Maybe the City Attorney?

http://wp.me/p10KwY-k4

Harry Statel http://harrystatel.wordpress.com

September 29, 2010 at 12:10 p.m.
Sorceress said...

from: http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/20... "On Saturday, Crutchfield and Turner posted a message on their site saying they had "come under scrutiny" for using a "powerful communications tool to enhance our marketing and communications for our day jobs."

How is setting up a private for profit LLC to enhance your day job and move outside of the budget restrictions set by the City Council not doing something for you own advantage?

Clearly, she violated both parts of the City Code of Ethics above. It doesn't have to be merely financial gain. Clearly, she used Be Magazine while on the city clock to make her position in City Government appear more vital than it actually is in reality, as a way of promoting her own self worth to the city, and that is using municipal time for advantage to self.

The city investigating itself is a conflict of interest. The potential for a friend or ally to overlook things is too great with internal audits. It really should be an external third party brought in to do the audit for it to have any validity in the eyes of the citizens of Chattanooga.

Especially, after all that has transpired this past year with the recall attempt, and citizens just having had enough over tax and fee hikes- the Council really needs to step up and do all that they can to ensure the audit is truly objective and transparent to the public, and the only way to do that is with external auditors.

September 29, 2010 at 11:09 p.m.
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