published Monday, April 1st, 2013

Bedford County 911 money spent on pricey meals, Coach bag, iPods

Nearly $47,000 received by the Bedford County Emergency Communications District for 911 service was spent on pricey meals, brand-name clothing, a Coach bag, two iPods, two Nooks and a power drill, a state audit found.

The purchases were made over a more-than-6-year period, according to the audit released today by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Division of Local Government Audit.

The Bedford County Emergency Communications District receives 911 fees collected from telephone bills to provide enhanced 911 emergency telephone service for the area it serves.

The audit states that, while the district’s former director claimed the clothing purchases were for employee uniforms, receipts show the items were bought from Eddie Bauer, The Gap, Cabelas, Dillard’s and several small specialty stores.

The former director also charged numerous meals to the district’s credit cards in situations in which there was no documentation that she was traveling overnight on business. Those included an $84.84 tab at J. Alexander’s restaurant in Franklin and a $40.03 tab at Toot’s in Murfreesboro. Meals also were bought by the former director while on overnight travel status even though she already had received a travel advance that included meals and incidentals, the audit states.

And there was also little or no documentation to verify other purchases the former director made were for business purposes, including the Coach bag (bought at a Coach store in Pigeon Forge), the electronics items and the Bosch Pro Drill. Some of the items have not been returned to the district, according to the audit.

The audit also found other problems with no documentation for how travel advances were spent, employees sometimes being reimbursed for meals when they were not traveling, cell phones apparently used for personal purposes and purchases made without competitive bids.

“Whether money is collected through taxes or surcharges on telephone bills, it is still public money and should be spent only for purposes that benefit the public,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said in the news release. “Many of the expenditures outlined in this report simply should not have occurred. The district’s board of directors needs to do a better job of oversight to prevent these types of issues from cropping up again in the future.”

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