Review of TBR, Northeast State referred to Division of State Audit

BLOUNTVILLE, TN (WJHL) – Lawmakers’ request for a review of the Tennessee Board of Regents and Northeast State Community College is now in the hands of state auditors.

“We received the letter from the legislators, and have referred these matters to our Division of State Audit,” Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Public Information Officer John Dunn said Monday. “It would be inappropriate to discuss any action we might be taking beyond that point. If a public report is issued, we are able to discuss details.”

Led by Sen. Jon Lundberg (R), TN-District 4, four area lawmakers called for the statewide review following the findings of our Community Watchdog investigation. Our review of hundreds of internal emails and memos concluded TBR knew Northeast State’s financial survival was in question as far back as 2013, which was years before the community college made major cuts amid a $5 million budget shortfall.

At the time, TBR said its staff took part in phone conversations with Northeast State. The college landed on TBR’s so-called “watch list” in the fall of 2015. The state agency in charge of oversight confirmed a more definitive warning sign in August 2016, six months before sending a team to the college to help.

Rep. John Crawford (R), TN-District 1, is one of four lawmakers who requested further investigation by state auditors.

“We just want to make sure that they have put the proper procedures and steps in place so that this doesn’t happen again,” Rep. Crawford said. “We want to make sure that we are doing our jobs and doing correct things with state or taxpayer money and we just don’t want them to be abused and so we are asking them to make sure so that this doesn’t happen again.”

TBR previously assured us the agency’s made changes to increase oversight and monitoring of all of its community colleges.

“We always welcome reviews by the Comptroller’s Office and cooperate fully with any requests it has,” TBR Communications Director Rick Locker said.

Locker previously said the agency forwarded faculty concerns to the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s Office earlier this year.

A current faculty senator and former student leader both called for a state audit following our investigation as well.

Copyright WJHL 2017. All rights reserved.

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