CARTER COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – Almost a year after state auditors began investigating the Elizabethton-Carter County Animal Shelter, the county mayor says he’s convinced some of the shelter’s former volunteers were using the facility for personal gain.
“Many of them, I don’t mind saying because I’ve seen the evidence, they were using it for personal gain and benefit,” Mayor Leon Humphrey said. “I’d rather not (elaborate) until the audit finding comes back and we’ll have it in black and white and we can present it to the world.”
Mayor Humphrey says there is the “potential” for criminal charges, but that will be up to the district attorney and could hinge largely on the findings of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s investigative audit, which he says is ongoing.
In the meantime, volunteers are still not allowed to help at the shelter. Amid concerns from the public about the conditions inside the facility, the mayor shut down the volunteer program and called in state auditors to investigate fraud, waste and abuse last summer. Those volunteers feel he’s unfairly targeting them.
“There was no personal gain whatsoever,” former volunteer Robin McKamey said. “Several of us donated lots of money to help these animals and care and want what’s best for them.”
McKamey, a school teacher, says she’s talked with auditors as part of the investigation and desperately wants to know the findings.
“I’m ready to see it, because my name won’t be in it. I guarantee,” she said. “There’s no proof. For months there’s no proof, just words.”
McKamey says she now spends her time documenting everything the mayor says, hoping volunteers one day return for the animals’ sake. She says volunteers will be shocked if auditors call them out for doing anything wrong.
“Hundreds of dollars have been donated from these volunteers and time and care,” she said. “I’ll have to see proof.”
Mayor Humphrey says all of the proof will come out in time.
“There’s no one in this county who would like for this audit to be completed more than Leon Humphrey,” the mayor said. “I want everyone to know what was going on at this facility.”
The investigative audit isn’t the only controversy at the shelter. The Carter County Commission will meet tonight with the future of the shelter hanging in the balance.
Mayor Humphrey has proposed to double the budget with both the county and city paying half, but he’s received pushback and criticism from his fellow elected leaders in Elizabethton who want to reduce their share of funding. The mayor argues the money is needed to properly care for the animals and minimize the spread of disease. In light of his counterpart’s criticism of his leadership, Mayor Humphrey is now proposing to turn over the operation of the facility to the City of Elizabethton.
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