published Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

TBI investigating alleged theft of Bradley County, Tenn., funds

In this file photo, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis, right, presents Bradley County Financial Director Lynn Burns with the the county's seventh Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting.
In this file photo, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis, right, presents Bradley County Financial Director Lynn Burns with the the county's seventh Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting.
Photo by Paul Leach /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — A former Bradley County finance department employee is under investigation, accused of using county money for personal use.

The employee, who resigned last week and has not been identified, has been under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation since July 11 in response to a request from the 10th Judicial District Attorney's Office, TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said.

The employee is alleged to have used "several thousand dollars" in county money to buy office supplies and have those items shipped to the employee's home address, Helm said.

A number of billing discrepancies involving the former employee were discovered and reported by Financial Director Lynn Burns on July 5, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis said.

Davis said he instructed Burns to continue checking into the matter and bring it to the attention of Bradley County Attorney Crystal Freiberg, who was on vacation until July 8. After she reviewed the questionable items with Burns and Davis, Freiberg contacted the 10th Judicial District Attorney's Office on July 9 or 10, Davis said.

"We found questionable issues going back as far as two or three months, as far as we know," Davis said. "We ended our involvement once the district attorney's office stepped in."

Davis said he had planned to terminate the employee, but she resigned on the evening of July 11 before he could do that.

"It is my understanding that the TBI investigation is substantially complete," said Steve Bebb, 10th Judicial District attorney general.

Charges cannot be filed until the investigation is completed and approved by the TBI, Bebb said.

He speculated that the recommended charge would be embezzlement or some other type of theft and that the case would be turned over to a grand jury in August.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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