Citizens for Better Government

Blount County Tennessee

 

Audit Report shows Blount County missing 28 Sheriff’s vehicles

 

Lots of spin from the machine

The Blount County political machine has been in “spin” overdrive in the last few weeks. All this activity surrounded the release of the State Audit report on Blount County for the Fiscal Year ended June 30,2007. First, county Finance Director, David Bennett sent a letter to all County Commissioners designed to put the most positive (misleading?) interpretation on the highly negative findings contained in the report. This letter was delivered to most Commissioners on Christmas eve. The audit report did not reach most Commissioners until New Years eve, or later, even though it is dated 12/5/07. Of course this letter was leaked to the press between Christmas and New Years and while Bennett was profusely quoted on the contents of the report, other more objective sources were not given access to the audit report and, in many cases, were not even in town and could not comment. Of course the articles appeared in the press when most people were occupied by other holiday concerns. Now Bennett is declaring the report a closed issue.

 

28 Missing Cars

The report clearly shows that 28 Sheriff’s vehicles are missing from the county books. As shown in the table below, the audit report shows that the Sheriff started the last fiscal year with 263 vehicles. It also shows the Sheriff had 243 vehicles at the end of last year. When county purchases and sales of Sheriff’s vehicles are accounted for, the table below shows that the Sheriff should have had 271 vehicles. Thus 28 vehicles are missing.

 

All figures refer to the total number of cars, trucks, vans, SUV’s and motorcycles.

Number of vehicles as of June 30, 2006 (FY 06) per page 291 of FY 07 state audit.       263

Vehicles purchased on 1/10/07 Purchase Order # 62331                                                      24

Vehicles purchased on 5/23/07 Purchase Order # 64110                                                        3

Vehicles auctioned or traded between 7/1/06 & 6/30/07 (FY 07) per Purchasing              -16

Vehicles transferred to other county departments in FY 07 per Accounting                           -3

                                                                                                                                                   ____

Total Vehicles that should have been on the books as of 6/30/07                                       271

 

Total Vehicles found as of June 30,2007 per page 291 of FY 07 state audit                     243

 

Number of Missing Vehicles                                                                     28

 

 

Bennett’s Letter

In his letter David Bennett, Blount County Finance Director, says that the problems he is having keeping track of Sheriff’s vehicles were because the “Sheriff’s Department signed off on the annual listing (vehicle inventory) without verifying its accuracy”. He seems to believe that in his role of Finance Director he has no responsibility to verify that taxpayer assets are being properly accounted for. He says it is his “responsibility to ensure that assets cannot go missing” and then admits that “there were vehicles on the inventory listing that have been sold, scrapped or disposed of in previous fiscal years” and not reflected in the vehicle counts. In a bizarre conclusion Bennett says “this finally put to rest the issue of ‘where are the missing cars’.”

 

What the audit says

The audit does not say anything like that. Consider what the audit does say.

·        “The Accounting Department provided an annual listing of inventory assigned to the Sheriff’s Department; however, a representative of the Sheriff’s Department signed-off on the annual listing without verifying its accuracy.”

 

What happened to the missing 28 cars?

All of Finance Director Bennett’s bluster does not answer the important questions of the citizens of the county. He removed 28 Sheriff’s vehicles from the county books that may have a value of hundreds of thousand of dollars. The citizens deserve an accounting of what happened to these vehicles. This accounting should tell us: the description and VIN number of the vehicle; who signed the title of the vehicle away from the county; when the vehicle was transferred from the county; how much the county received for the vehicle; proof the money was received and deposited in the proper county account; etc..

We must remember that our Finance Director has an inherent conflict of interest. He is also Chairman of the County political machine. He is supposed to assure the accuracy and integrity of all the financial numbers of the County. He may have difficulty with this task when the most powerful politician in the machine, Sheriff Berrong, is involved. Call your Commissioners. Tell them you want a complete accounting for the 28 missing Sheriff’s vehicles. Remind them, citizens have been asking for this for a year.

 

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