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Comptroller Justin Wilson, left, attends a meeting of the State Funding Board in Nashville.
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Hillsview Volunteer Fire Dept. report

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McMinn Veterans Services report

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The Tennessee Comptroller's Office this week released two investigative reports in McMinn County related to the Hillsview Volunteer Fire Department and to the county's Veteran's Services Office.

Comptroller's office investigators said probing records at the fire department found more than $6,000 in questionable expenditures that lacked documentation to show whether they were for personal benefit or legitimate purposes. Officials also dinged the department for an illegal raffle.

At the Veteran's Services Office, officials found the former director opened an unauthorized bank account that had $227 in it from which she withdrew $200 for a personal purchase, comptroller's office investigators said.

The investigative report for the Veterans Services Office reviewed the period from Jan. 29, 2015, to April 22, 2016, while the report on the fire department reviewed July 1, 2014, to Jan. 31, 2016. No criminal wrongdoing was indicated in the reports.

HILLSVIEW

State law effective last June requires volunteer fire departments that receive public funding to file an annual financial report with the state comptroller and the local governments that provide funding, according to a statement from Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. Hillsview had not filed such a report when the comptroller's office did the investigation.

Investigators found the fire department issued $6,414.87 in disbursements without properly documenting them.

Hillsview also found that the department conducted an illegal raffle during at least two fundraising events. State law allows raffles for 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) organizations recognized by the Internal Revenue Service. Hillsview, while all volunteer, doesn't have one of those designations.

Fire Chief Ben Sneed told officials the department's members are "in the process of fixing all the deficiencies noted in your report," documents state. "We will no longer hold raffles of any kind."

VETERANS SERVICES

Comptroller's officials said in the report that the Veterans Services office should not have unauthorized bank accounts and officials should have run all the money collected through the county trustee's office under the management of the county finance director, who resigned from her post on July 31, 2015.

The former director, Deborah Cox, said in her response that she was unaware of financial requirements for the office when she became its director and was trying to be "proactive." Cox said she opened the bank account "for the express purpose of receiving donations for veteran's ceremonies."

"On Sept. 17, 2015, a $200 debit card purchase was made out of this account by mistake," Cox said. She said the office's debit card and hers look identical, and that "I immediately corrected the error by depositing the money into the correct account."

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

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