By Ryan Lewis
SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. -- After a statewide news release in September accused city leaders of illegally transferring almost $750,000 from the town's utilities department in 2010, officials are working to resolve the issue.
City Attorney Tracy Wooden said recently that he is communicating with the Tennessee comptroller's office about the matter but he's not ready to discuss those exchanges.
"I don't want to go into a lot of detail in an open meeting about that because things get quoted in the paper," he said. "Sometimes you get misquoted, and when they hear what I try to explain, they quote it a different way. It gets released and goes to the comptroller, and I lose all credibility."
Members of the South Pittsburg City Commission are being briefed on the progress of the discussions "at least on a monthly basis," Wooden said.
Commissioner Debbie Hughes said she was concerned that Mayor Mike Killian knew about the state's allegations weeks before the news release but didn't inform city commissioners.
"I was at work and started getting phone calls about [the release], and I had no idea," she said. "[Killian] knew two weeks before the press release and didn't tell anybody else about the money [transfer] situation."
Killian said he met with state officials two weeks before the news release and put the issue on the agenda for the Sept. 13 city meeting.
"It was a surprise to me that they issued a press release and nearly every line in it was false," he said. "[The state comptroller's office] knew I was going to put it on the agenda. That's what I told them I was going to do. That's what I'm required to do."
Killian said he wasn't allowed to tell anyone else about the allegations.
"Sure I knew, and [the commissioners] were going to know under their constitutional duty if I had been allowed to tell them," he said. "But I wasn't allowed to tell them."
Wooden said that, when the matter is resolved, he will have a "full and complete report" that will be "completely open and transparent in every way."
"There's no way anything is going to be swept under the rug," he said. "The comptroller is not going to allow it, but there's a process I need to go through. That has to be honored and respected until it concludes jointly with the city and the state."
Killian said he "would love to say a whole lot more, and I eventually will."