published Friday, January 27th, 2012

Tennessee auditors fault Grundy County for lax financial recordkeeping again

Tennessee auditors are criticizing Grundy County -- again -- for lax financial recordkeeping and improper payments.

Among other findings in the state comptroller's audit for fiscal 2011 were budget overruns in the county mayor's and the schools director's offices, "questionable compensation" and bonuses for schools employees, and ongoing failure to impose financial controls in several offices. The lack of financial controls has been a problem in past audits, the report stated.

The Comptroller's Division of County Audit made 23 findings and recommendations, according to a news release from spokesman Blake Fontenay.

"Many of them deal with accounting practices that help ensure that public dollars are properly collected, recorded and spent or deposited," Fontenay said.

County Mayor Lonnie Cleek and Director of Schools Joel Hargis could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Among the other findings, according to the statement:

• Three school employees received a total of more than $13,000 in questionable compensation.

• Seven school employees each received $600 bonuses not approved by the county's board of education.

• Expenditures exceeded appropriations for both the county mayor's office and the director of schools' office.

• Deficiencies were identified in the purchasing procedures for the director of schools' office.

• The sheriff's office used improper procedures to receive and disburse funds.

Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said in the news release that Grundy County has had problems in the past with its financial recordkeeping.

The audit noted problems with financial controls in several offices including the mayor, road superintendent, schools, county clerk and sheriff are reoccuring.

"Our auditors like to see signs that problems and potential problems have been corrected," Wilson said. "Also, the high number of findings suggests that maybe record-keeping practices aren't being taken as seriously as they should."

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