Tennessee: $2,700 in court fees stolen in Polk County

Tennessee: $2,700 in court fees stolen in Polk County

June 5th, 2013 by Staff Report in Local Regional News

Tennessee state Comptroller Justin Wilson

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - State Comptroller Justin Wilson's office said $2,700 in court fees was stolen from the Polk County Circuit and General Sessions Court Clerk's Office last year.

Officials said the Comptroller's Division of Investigations investigated along with the Polk County Sheriff's Department after being notified in December of "suspected irregularities" involving court receipts.

"This cash shortage resulted from a former deputy clerk voiding receipts totaling $1,322.78, after issuing a receipt to the customer and collecting funds for the amount of the receipt," the investigators' report said.

It said the funds were not credited to customers' cases or otherwise accounted for.

"Furthermore, we determined that at least $1,379.50 of applicable fees was eliminated [zeroed out] with no documentation to support the clearing of the fees. It appears that these fees were eliminated to conceal a theft of funds," the report said.

Multiple employees used the same cash drawer, which can make it more difficult to determine accountability in cases of theft or missing funds, the comptroller's office said.

But the report said investigators traced the transactions to the computer login of a deputy court clerk who resigned Nov. 8. Investigators also discovered the same deputy court clerk had provided false documents to a client and voided transactions after receiving payments.

The findings have been reviewed with the local district attorney's office.

Polk County Clerk of Courts Connie Clark said in her written response to the finding that she is "very disappointed in the individual that is responsible for the discrepancies in this audit."

She said her office "will not tolerate anyone who conducts any wrongful transactions in their official capacity as deputy clerk. Hopefully, we can work with local government and try to correct some of the computer programs. They must be revised to help eliminate individuals from concealing discrepancies in their working capacities."

Wilson said in a news release that "just like tax revenues, fines and fees collected by courts are public money. It is important to guard against fraud, waste and abuse of these funds. I commend our investigators and those from the Polk County Sheriff's Department for their good work on this case."