Citizens for Better Government
Blount County Tennessee
Mayor Cunningham, Sheriff Berrong and Finance Director Bennett recently launched an all-out effort in the press to try once again to cover up the problem of the 36 missing Sheriff’s vehicles. Apparently, they recently did a physical inventory of the Sheriff’s vehicles, and found the number of vehicles matched what was on the county inventory. This does nothing to resolve the problem of the 36 vehicles that went missing in fiscal year 2007.
As anyone who has ever dealt with an inventory knows, the results of a physical inventory only tell part of the story. For example, suppose you own a used car lot. You count 10 vehicles at the beginning of the year and are happy to see that they match your list of vehicles. You count 13 vehicles at the end of the year, and those also match your end of year list. You feel great about your inventory, until you go look at your transactions against your inventory. You find that you sold 5 cars and bought 12 during the year. That means that you should have had 10-5+12, or 17cars. But you only can find 13. You must conclude that four vehicles were lost or stolen. Your physical inventory matched your inventory list, but until you examined the transactions against your inventory, you really did not know anything. Cunningham, Bennett and Berrong spent lots of words telling us their inventory matched their list. By drawing our attention away from the inventory transactions that took place in 2007, they hope to continue their cover-up of what really happened to the 36 missing vehicles.
This chart below summarizes the problem of the missing Blount County Sheriff’s vehicles. The top line of the chart shows that at the beginning of Fiscal year 2007 the inventory list showed 263 cars, trucks, SUVs, vans and motorcycles in the Sheriff’s fleet (including Metro Narcotics). These numbers are taken from the 2006 column of page 291 of the 2007 county audit report. The chart then lists the additions to the Sheriff’s fleet based on purchase orders issued by the county. It also lists additions via seizures and “donations”, from vehicle data, provided by the county on its Internet site (our Mayor has stated, in writing, “every piece of (vehicle) data we possess is on-line”). The chart then shows the number of Sheriff’s vehicles that were auctioned by our county purchasing department, as well as the number transferred to other county departments based on the county-provided Internet data. The result shows the Sheriff should have had 279 vehicles in June of 2007. Unfortunately, page 291 of the audit report shows only 243 cars, trucks, SUVs, vans and motorcycles could be found when the FY-07 physical inventory was done of the Sheriff’s vehicles – leaving 36 vehicles missing.
How can a whole parking lot full of vehicles just disappear? First you have to have really bad accounting controls. The State Comptroller found “very serious .. deficiencies in (Blount County) procedures and controls over vehicle inventory records in the Finance office and in the Sheriff’s Department”. Unfortunately, the Comptroller did not spend the time to see who ended up with the missing parking lot full of vehicles.
Of course, when asked about what really happened to these 36 missing vehicles, our normally garrulous Mayor, and his political machine partners, offer only silence.