published Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Chattanooga Public Library leaders reported to the state for suspected fraud

The Public Library, formerly known as the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library, is at 1001 Broad St.
The Public Library, formerly known as the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library, is at 1001 Broad St.
Photo by John Rawlston.

A city auditor’s probe criticizes Chattanooga Public Library director Corinne Hill for excess reimbursements for worldwide trips and says her top two employees have been reported to the state for suspected fraud.

City Auditor Stan Sewell’s reports shows that Assistant Library Director Nate Hill and System Administrator Meg Backus were reported to the state comptroller’s office after they took multiple paid speaking and consultant jobs while being paid by the library. When questioned, the audit says, Backus reportedly made false statements to auditors and destroyed relevant documents.

While Hill — who was named the 2014 national Librarian of the Year — wasn’t reported for suspected fraud, the report also shows that she and Nate Hill took weeks of unreported vacation and were overpaid hundreds of dollars for at least two overseas trips for library speaking events.

Sewell discovered that Corinne Hill had been doubly reimbursed for a trip to Denmark and was overpaid $972. On a trip to Chicago, Hill a had a duplicate reimbursement for airfare and was overpaid $400.

They were told about the overcharges in February, but neither have reimbursed the library, the report states.

Sewell also discovered that the library board, formed in 2011 when the library came fully under city control, lacked checks and balances in place, such as board bylaws, and doesn’t post notice of its public meetings.

Reached by phone this morning, Corinne Hill referred all questions to library board Chairman James Kennedy. Kennedy and multiple other board members did not respond to messages seeking comment this morning.

City Council Chairman Chip Henderson said the council has seen the audit and that he’s been assured the library board will address policy and personnel issues at next week’s board meeting. At this point, he said, the City Council should let the board act before deciding whether to take any action.

See tomorrow’s Times Free Press for complete details.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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