More Than $50,000 Stolen From Morgan County Soil Conservation District

Monday, June 04, 2012

An administrative secretary used a variety of schemes to steal at least $53,412.78 from the Morgan County Soil Conservation District, an investigation by the Comptroller’s Division of Local Government Audit has revealed.

The administrative secretary, Sharlene Justice, forged signatures of the district board’s chairman on checks and timesheets dating back at least to 2008. The administrative secretary wrote checks to herself and to family members.

A portion of the unreceipted cash collected by the administrative secretary was eventually deposited and a forged check written by Ms. Justice was returned by the bank due to insufficient funds.  This reduced the cash shortage to $44,727.08.

The report noted that the soil district’s board of directors failed to provide adequate oversight over the district’s operations and that safeguards that might have detected the thefts sooner were lacking.

For example, auditors noted that Ms. Justice was responsible for all aspects of financial transactions, which meant no one on the district staff double checked her work. Also, the district issued only generic receipts, which made it difficult to determine if office funds were being properly receipted and deposited. The lack of oversight was further illustrated when the chairman of the board advised that his signature had been forged on checks and timesheets since at least 2008.

“It is very important that government entities practice good internal controls in accounting and bookkeeping,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “Internal controls are basically a set of checks and balances that help make sure that public dollars aren’t subject to fraud, waste or abuse. As this case clearly illustrates, there can be consequences for governments that don’t have good internal controls.”

The findings of the report, which was released Monday, were forwarded to the local district attorney’s office.

On May 21, the Morgan County Grand Jury indicted Ms. Justice on one count of theft over $10,000. On May 23, she was arrested by officers from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

To view the report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/la/SpecialReports.asp.


Chattanooga Railroad Series: Blue Ridge Scenic Railroad

The tracks along the scenic Toccoa River that runs between CopperhHill/McCaysville and Blue Ridge were idle for two decades and in danger of being taken up. But a group of dedicated train enthusiasts and volunteers set about to bring the passenger train back to the mountains, and they have succeeded in a big way. The train, with two locomotives and 11 passenger cars, runs ... (click for more)

Walker County Residents Facing Property Tax Increase

Walker County Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell said Thursday that a property tax increase is necessary because the county's revenue is declining by millions of dollars. She said income is down from $21 million to the current $18 million. The proposed increase would bring in $4.2 million. Ms. Heiskell said the owner of a $100,000 house would pay an additional $10 per month ... (click for more)

Thanks For Making The Southern Brewers Festival A Success

Now that the dust has settled I'd like to thank Chattanooga for supporting the Southern Brewers Festival and making it yet another very successful event.    For those who do not know - the SBF benefits the Chattanooga chapter of Kids on the Block and the Chattanooga Community Kitchen.  As a partner helping the SBF with volunteers, sponsorships and the overall production ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Al Sharpton’s Wise Remarks

I’ll admit I paid little more than scant attention to the Monday funeral of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who was shot and killed by police bullets in Ferguson, Mo., after he allegedly was involved in strong-armed robbery. There are too many tawdry details and, in my way of thinking, there is nothing under God’s sun, absolutely nothing, that gives others the right to riot, burn ... (click for more)

After String Of Injuries, Ailments Vols' Maggitt Ready To Play

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Come Sunday ,  it will have been 659 days since Curt Maggitt played a snap in a college football game, but that's not what he's concerned about. "It's four days from now," Maggitt said Wednesday. "That's what's most important. It's going to be emotional for sure. It's been a real long time since I've been out there and ran through the `T' actually suited ... (click for more)

Saturday's Sixteen: College Football Picks

  College football with all its pomp and pageantry is finally here with a long weekend of games starting tonight. SEC has two conference games as Arkansas visits Auburn and Texas A&M is at South Carolina … Georgia-Clemson should be a great game, Utah State could give Tennessee a battle and Louisiana Monroe will be waiting at home to beat Wake Forest. Here ... (click for more)