published Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Auditors hit Grundy County with 21 findings

The Grundy County Courthouse sits in Altamont, Tenn.
The Grundy County Courthouse sits in Altamont, Tenn.
Photo by Staff File Photo.

OTHER FINDINGS

County mayor’s office:

• The Waste Water Fund required material audit adjustments for proper financial statement presentation.

• The office had deficiencies in purchasing procedures.

• Authorization paperwork was not on file to support the gross salary amounts for some employees.

Trustee and circuit and general sessions courts clerk:

• Multiple employees operated from the same cash drawer.

County mayor, highway superintendent, director of schools, county clerk, circuit and general sessions court clerk, clerk and master and sheriff:

• Duties were not segregated adequately.

Source: Tennessee Comptroller’s Office of the Treasury

Grundy County Financial Report
Grundy County Financial Report

State auditors hit Grundy County, Tenn., with 21 findings, 16 of them divided between the director of schools' office and the highway superintendent's office, in an audit released Wednesday.

The audit reviewed the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013, and listed findings in those two offices and in the offices of county mayor, trustee and Circuit and General Sessions Court.

Most findings related to bookkeeping and record-keeping problems, and no money was missing, records show.

The school system office had one recurring finding but still tallied a total of eight, records show.

In Director of Schools Jody Hargis' office, the findings included one in which there was $804,606 in two cash overdrafts in the school federal projects and educational capital projects funds, resulting from issuing drafts exceeding cash on deposit with the county trustee.

Another finding was issued for deficits of more than $58,000 in an unassigned fund balance in the school federal project and education capital projects fund related to failure to submit a request for reimbursement for indirect cost, the audit states.

The overdrafts and deficits were liquidated by the end of fiscal year 2013, the audit states.

Findings also included problems with budget operations and the office's use of federal grant funds, resulting in questionable expenditures. Auditors said the office also "failed to hold spending to the limits authorized by the County Commission, resulting in the unauthorized expenditures."

Hargis said he and his staff were working on fixes.

"We are researching where we had our problems, and we're going to make every effort to correct them," he said.

He said one finding on questionable costs was caused by paperwork problems created by a person not employed by the school system but whose job was funded through a grant. There will be stricter requirements and a designated school official to oversee anyone who works in that capacity in the future, he said.

The county highway department had eight findings, including inadequate control over fuel, allowing an employee to use department fuel for her personal vehicle, and deficiencies in purchasing procedures and employee travel, the audit states.

The highway department also had findings for deficiencies related to work performed for other government entities. Those five findings were recurring from a previous audit.

The audit also listed a finding for the highway department performing work and providing materials on private property in Palmer, Tenn. The city's bookkeeper told auditors that work involved an old, vacant house that was only three feet from a road highway department crews were working on at the time, and it was in such a state of disrepair it could have fallen into the roadway, the audit states.

Highway Superintendent Hubert Hargis said his office was making changes to address bookkeeping problems and issues with working on roads for the towns in the county.

He said he was putting an employee in charge of dispensing and keeping track of fuel, and that he would change the way he'd been compensating the office secretary for her 30-mile round trips to the courthouse in her own car.

The work on private property arose from work on a guardrail that required him to remove two trees, he said. The old house had to be torn down to get the trees out, he said. He urged residents with any concerns about the audit to call him at the highway department office.

"I am very concerned that Grundy County had so many findings in this audit," Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said in a release on the audit. "I'm particularly concerned because 10 of the findings were identified in previous audits, but local officials apparently didn't take appropriate corrective action."

Auditors also said Grundy should adopt a central system of accounting, budgeting and purchasing and establish an audit committee.

County Mayor Lonnie Cleek said his office had whittled away on previous audit findings and already addressed the two recurring ones in purchasing and payroll that were listed this time.

Cleek said a purchasing policy has been implemented for the office and paperwork was updated for employees' annual salaries.

"We have reduced our audit findings every year and are on our way to having a clean report," Cleek said.

He said there is little a small, rural county can do about the segregation of duties finding without more spending, but officials will segregate the duties they can.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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