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GRUNDY COUNTY FINANCIAL REPORT

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Grundy County has been slammed by the Tennessee comptroller's office for not correcting purchasing procedures, poor record-keeping and policy and organizational problems for two years.

"For two years in a row we have raised concerns about the substantial number of audit findings that have gone uncorrected," Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said in a news release on the audit that covers the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014.

According to the audit, 10 of the 14 findings were repeats from last year, mostly dinging the offices of the county mayor, highway superintendent and director of schools.

In response to recommendations from the comptroller's office, Grundy County created an audit committee on May 20, 2013, but auditors could find no minutes to document that the committee ever met or conducted any business.

Michael Brady, a former county commissioner who was elected county mayor in August, said work was already underway to address the repeat findings and get the audit committee up and running with a schedule for meetings.

Brady said purchase orders were the topic Wednesday of informal meetings with county department heads and that documentation was going to become a standard for all county employee salaries.

He said the audit is a good starting point for some of the county's newly elected officials.

"There's a total of four new officials in the courthouse. This is a great opportunity to put these things at the top of the list," he said. "I think this is a good opportunity to show the public that we're going to be good stewards of their money."

The most repeats overall came in the office of Highway Superintendent Herbert "Turkey" Hargis with five, all of them repeated from last year. Three of last year's eight findings were addressed, the audit shows.

Hargis said the Highway Department has a new secretary who will tackle record-keeping problems, develop contracts for working with municipalities and start segregating office duties, all findings in the audit.

He said a finding about his reimbursement for a meal while on a county business-related trip reflected an oversight on his part.

"I bought dinner for my girlfriend and stepson, and it totaled up to more than it would just for me," Hargis said on Wednesday. New departmental policy allows reimbursements of $8 for breakfast, $14 for lunch and $18 for dinner.

Hargis said he wouldn't make that mistake again.

In Director of Schools Dr. David Dickson's office, auditors listed four findings, including deficiencies in purchasing procedures and administration of the Little Jackets Daycare, a finding that the actual fund balance exceeded beginning fund balance estimates and another that board policy was not followed in the recruitment and selection of Dickson to replace former Director Joel Hargis.

Dickson responded in the audit that purchase orders and better record-keeping would address purchasing and fund balance problems, and administration problems at the daycare would be fixed with better segregation of duties.

Dickson said his selection as director was made under the advice of the school system attorney, who said board policy in 2013 was inconsistent with state law that allows the board to hire a new director "upon 15 days' notice." That policy was revised in August to match state law.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or twitter.com/BenBenton or www.facebook.com/ben.benton1 or 423-757-6569.

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