Senator calls for statewide investigation into Northeast State, TBR

Sullivan County, TN (WJHL) – Sen. Jon Lundberg (R), TN-District 4, said he wants the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury to investigate Northeast State Community College and the Tennessee Board of Regents.

“I believe a review is in order,” Sen. Lundberg said.

Sen. Lundberg said he’s in the process of writing a formal letter, specifically requesting auditors investigate what oversight processes were in place before 2015 and specifically what checks and balances are there now to make sure another financial crisis never occurs at any Tennessee community college.

“This can’t happen. This shouldn’t happen,” he said. “Somebody made bad decisions and frankly, it wasn’t just one bad decision. It was a pattern of bad decision-making.”

The review is something both former student government leader Seth Manning and current Northeast State Faculty Senate Vice President Tricia Crawford want.

“We need an independent, third-party investigation,” Manning said.

“It’s hard to instill confidence when you’re not aware of all of the facts,” Crawford said.

While the TBR reports it shared faculty concerns with the Comptroller of the Treasury’s office earlier this year, the only audit any agency’s published so far related to the situation is a one-page TBR audit released in September.

“It seems as if they’re not taking responsibility or they’re not taking the allegations seriously about how we got into this process,” Crawford said.

Leading up to the $5 million budget shortfall at the college, our investigation found signs the school’s financial survival was in question as far back as 2013, which was years before cuts at Northeast State. TBR confirmed a more definitive warning sign as early as August 2016, six months before the agency in charge of oversight sent a team to the college to help.

Communications Director Rick Locker said TBR’s since made changes to increase oversight.

 “We’ve stepped up our monitoring and I don’t think this problem’s going to happen again,” Locker previously said.

Copyright WJHL 2017. All rights reserved.

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