Investigation finds WCSO employees used county assets for private purposes

WASHINGTON COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – Washington County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Office employees used county assets for private purposes, according to a Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury investigation.

“Employees at the Sheriff’s Department maintenance facility were allowed to use the facility to work on private citizens’ vehicles for personal gain,” the report said. “Based on interviews with the sheriff and other department employees, we determined that employees performed maintenance on private citizens’ vehicles after normal work hours with parts and supplies purportedly purchased with their personal funds. In addition, the sheriff informed us that the majority of the tools used at the maintenance facility belonged to his mechanics and not the county. We were unable to determine if any of the Sheriff Department maintenance supplies were used for private purposes.”

But regardless, John Dunn, public information officer for the TN Comptroller said the WCSO garage is a public facility.

“It’s paid for by their public dollars and it should not be used to allow citizens to have work performed on their vehicles,” Dunn said.

“Basically there was, as far as I know,  no money exchanged in anything it was just our, you know, if somebody needed some help that they would help them and that’s been going on since 1980,” Sheriff Ed Graybeal said.

According to Graybeal and County Mayor Dan Eldridge, the county has notified all maintenance employees that they cannot use county-owned assets for private work.

“I’m confident there was no ill intent, no effort to defraud the taxpayers or anything like that but it was just a practice that apparently had been allowed to go on for many many years,” Eldridge said.

The investigative report, released Monday, reveals the department’s maintenance facility also did not have adequate controls over assets and the department as a whole had deficiencies in receiving and disbursing insurance claim checks.

“The Sheriff’s Department made payments totaling $21,444.85 to local businesses for repairs of department vehicles without going through the county’s purchasing process,” the report said.

The county has pledged to change its process.

“The three issues that were addressed by the comptroller’s office have all been addressed by the sheriff’s department and the county with proper procedures that will prevent this from occurring in the future,” Eldridge said.

“We recognize the importance of depositing all county funds timely and have instructed all employees who receive funds from whatever source, to immediately transmit those funds to the County Trustee. Specifically, when insurance claim checks are received they are now presented to the Washington County Trustee’s office for deposit into the Insurance Recovery Revenue Account,” the sheriff and mayor said in their response written in the report.

The investigation looked at selected records from February 2013 through July 21, 2016. The sheriff’s department is reportedly implementing software to better maintain inventory records.

Copyright WJHL 2016. All rights reserved.

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