Human Resource Agency Squanders Taxpayer Funds On Entertainment, Travel And Subsidies, Report Finds

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Taxpayer money has been used to cover $2 million for travel expenses, meals and entertainment, mobile communications devices and subsidies for a training complex and resort property used by the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency, an investigation by the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations has revealed.

Among other issues, investigators found that agency officials spent nearly $60,000 on an annual trip to Washington, D.C., more than $1.6 million to subsidize its training complex and resort property, $123,000 for gift certificates for training events, more than $100,000 annually on 160 mobile communication devices for employees, and thousands of dollars for extravagant meals and entertainment.

The Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency serves 14 counties in the Cumberland Plateau region with a 63-member board comprised of various county and city mayors and derives the vast majority of its funding from state and federal governments.

The Comptroller’s investigative report, which was released Tuesday, details how agency officials made tens of thousands of dollars in disbursements for non-public purposes in 2011 alone.

Investigators found numerous receipts from a March 2011 trip to Washington, D.C., apparently for 30 agency officials, employees and guests to meet with their members of Congress. On several occasions during the trip, officials charged more than $3,000 per meal for lavish dinners including alcohol.  On a single meal at Washington’s Oceanaire Seafood Room, 34 agency guests consumed nearly $5,000 in food, including over 30 alcoholic beverages.  The costs of such extravagant meals were typically split between two agency credit cards, ostensibly to conceal the high costs.

During the same Washington trip, the agency spent $1,255 for officials, employees and guests to attend a performance at Ford’s Theatre, $289 for a visit to Madame Tussauds wax museum and $284 for a trip to Mount Vernon.

In addition to expensive annual trips to Washington, agency officials made frequent trips to Nashville each year, charging expensive meals and alcoholic beverages on agency credit cards for purposes of entertaining agency board members and legislators.  In February 2010, for example, the agency spent $2,361 for 25 guests at Morton’s Steakhouse, dividing the dinner check among three agency credit cards.  In August 2010, seven guests were treated to $85 in pre-dinner cocktails before an $807 dinner at Morton’s at the agency’s expense.  In October 2010, the agency spent nearly $10,000 to have its annual meeting in October 2010 catered and more than $8,500 for a staff holiday party in December 2010

The human resource agency provided its training and resort property, Lakeside Resort and Educational Training Complex, at least $1,696,928 in subsidies since 1995, according to the Comptroller’s report.  Even though there appeared to be no effort to recover this financial support, the agency recorded this receivable as an asset on the financial records, yet wrote off the entire debt in 2010 as uncollectable.

“Whether money comes from federal, state or local government, it is all public money that should be spent for proper public purposes,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “When taxpayers see their money being spent for the purposes outlined in this audit, it erodes their faith in government. I encourage leaders of the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency to take steps to ensure these types of expenses don’t occur in the future.”   

The Comptroller’s office continues its review of the Upper Cumberland Development District and a separate report will be issued on that matter at a later date. 

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


Fort Oglethorpe Arrest Report For Oct. 17-23

Here is the Fort Oglethorpe arrest report for Oct. 17-23: Jorge Zambrano Gonzalez, 37, of 1216 Helena Drive #8, Hixson was arrested October 16 on charges of driving while unlicensed and crossing median. Pedro Sepulveda, 42, of 854 Davis Street, Apt. E3, Gainsville, GA was arrested October 16 on charges of driving while license suspended and crossing median. Jonathan ... (click for more)

Catoosa County Arrest Report For Oct. 17-23

Click  here  for the Catoosa County arrest report for Oct. 17-23. (click for more)

Not Everything Has Been Done To Save Hutcheson

I am a resident of Walker County and I have a personal belief that a hospital ranks equal to other basic services a community should offer (like police, fire, emergency services, school systems, government, etc.). I am not privy to all the management and financial conundrums concerning the feasibility of maintaining and growing Hutcheson, and as a private citizen I don’t believe ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Pete Carroll’s Philosophy

Pete Carroll, the head football coach of the Seattle Seahawks, has a deep belief that he can change people by simply listening to them and then making suggestions on how they can get what they really want. If the people Carroll who can influence win, Carroll wins, and remember his team won last year’s Super Bowl with his methods.   When asked for example, here is what ... (click for more)

Freeman-Led Owls Whip Cleveland, 30-14, To Win 5-AAA Title

(Story will be updated) Rashun Freeman was on a mission Friday night. Freeman, a junior defensive back/wide receiver/special team’s guy, caught a touchdown pass, returned a punt for another score and had one of three Ooltewah interceptions as the fourth-ranked Owls defeated Cleveland, 30-14, to win the District 5-AAA championship in front of a near-capacity crowd at James ... (click for more)

Baylor Beats Father Ryan For D-II State Volleyball Title

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Friday was a magical day for the Baylor Lady Red Raider volleyball team. Facing arch-rival Father Ryan for the fourth time this season, Baylor evened the score at 2-2, but the last time at Siegel High School was the sweetest as it came in the championship match of the D-II Class AA state tournament. Father Ryan had a huge group of students in its ... (click for more)