published Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Rhea schools chief clarifies gift card purchases

DAYTON, Tenn. — Jerry Levengood, director of Rhea County Schools, spoke to the Rhea County Purchase and Finance Committee this week about receipts for unexplained purchases that were questioned at the panel’s previous meeting.

Chairman Ronnie Raper had reviewed the receipts and announced that $2,700 went toward gift cards, with no specifics about why they were given or to whom.

Levengood explained Wednesday that the cards were “all for classroom supplies” and that 27 cards for $100 each were distributed to teachers. Each teacher had students who were nominated for character awards.

Earlier, Finance Director Bill Graham said there was “no accountability” in some of the county’s departments. He showed multiple receipts from two Rhea County Schools departments.

Levengood was out of town during last week’s meeting.

According to Levengood, the state comptroller spoke with Graham on April 28 about the need for better controls on debit and credit card purchases within departments.

“These gift cards in question were purchased on April 4” following procedures established years ago before the comptroller’s recommendation, he said.

Graham said last week that several county departments had credit cards, but that he didn’t know how many were issued.

“That’s the problem,” he said.

In a 2010 audit, the county finance department was flagged as needing “more management oversight” and better controls over its capital and nondepreciable assets.

In February, the county began using a new tracking scanner to help the purchasing department inventory assets, Graham said.

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