Former East Tennessee Water Division Clerk Indicted For Theft And Credit Card Fraud

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Following a review by the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations, the former clerk of the Watauga River Regional Water Authority/North Elizabethton Water Division surrendered to the Carter County Sheriff’s Office this month after being indicted on charges of theft, forgery, official misconduct and credit card fraud.

The Comptroller's review found the former clerk, Lori Beth Feaster, had stolen cash utility collections, made personal purchases with district credit cards and took unauthorized check payments that amounted to tens of thousands of dollars.

Ms. Feaster used some of the agency’s funds to cover personal expenses such as a battery and windshield wipers for her car and an energy efficient front-loading clothes washer. 

In a report released on Thursday, the Comptroller’s investigators detailed how, in just two years, Ms. Feaster stole approximately $44,174 of ratepayer funds while handling and accounting for utility collections at the agency.

Investigators noted that it was Ms. Feaster’s ability to collect money, prepare bank deposits and sign checks on behalf of the agency without sufficient oversight which presented her with the opportunity to steal public funds. She capitalized on that situation by issuing more than $23,000 in checks to herself, taking more than $15,000 in cash utility collections and making more than $4,000 in fraudulent credit card purchases - all the while falsifying agency records to cover her tracks.

Ms. Feaster concealed $23,743 in checks made out in her name by fraudulently recording the payments in the agency’s accounting records as payments to a backhoe vendor. She also shorted cash utility deposits by at least $15,506.  In one instance, Ms. Feaster changed a $6,974.34 bank deposit slip prepared by another employee to $5,974.35 and kept $1,000 for her personal use.

“Theft or misuse of public funds is unacceptable, whether those funds come from tax dollars, utility bills or any other sources,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “These types of crimes need to be taken as seriously as any other type of theft.”

“The failure to adequately separate financial duties, as was the case here, is the most common weakness in accountability that allows for thefts of public funds to occur,” said L. Rene Brison, assistant director of the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations.  “It is imperative that all public officials and employees put adequate safeguards in place to prevent any single employee from having sole responsibility for each step in the collections and disbursements process.”    

To view the report online, go to:

Consumer Protection Bill Sponsored By Rep. Travis Passes House Unanimously

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Ron Travis (R-Dayton) that strengthens Tennessee’s consumer protection laws was approved.   House Bill 1879,  which passed by a 91-0 vote tally, prohibits members of the health care industry from soliciting business from victims of accidents or natural disasters for a period of 30 days following an incident. The measure exempts ... (click for more)

Upcoming City Council Agenda For Tuesday

Here is the upcoming City Council agenda for Tuesday: I. Call to Order. II. Pledge of Allegiance/Invocation (Vice Chairman Smith). III. Minute Approval. IV. Special Presentation. V. Ordinances – Final Reading: PLANNING a. 2018-023 Kenneth Spann (R-4 Special Zone to C-2 Convenience Commercial Zone). An ordinance to amend Chattanooga City Code, Part ... (click for more)

Why Are Pictures Of Our President And Vice President Not Hanging At Our Federal Courthouse?

I would like to know why the pictures of our President and Vice President have not been hung in our Federal Courthouse. They have been approved by the White House. Every time I call they tell me they are on order. Tommy Fryar (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Saturday Funnies

As your dress in your best green outfit today so you can join in the Saint Patrick’s Day revelry, here’s a conversation that was overhead at an Irish pub in Killarney. Finnegan is sitting in his favorite corner, using some of the proceeds after selling his friend Michael a donkey. Suddenly Michael bolts in the door and yells, “Hey, Finnegan, that donkey you sold me went and died.' ... (click for more)

Scott Chandler Named Ooltewah Football Coach

Ooltewah High School is honored and privileged to name the new head football coach. After several quality applicants, the football search committee has decided to name Scott Chandler to this position. He brings great passion, knowledge, and experience to this football team and its staff. His belief system is impeccable, and because of this, he will bring great pride and ... (click for more)

Lady Vols Soar Past Liberty, 100-60

KNOXVILLE -- No. 12/13-ranked Tennessee soared past Liberty, 100-60, as the No. 3 seed Lady Vols scored their highest point total in an NCAA Tournament game since 2006 when they defeated Army, 102-54.   Rennia Davis led UT (25-7) with 18 points and 11 rebounds, marking her ninth career double-double and tying her with Tamika Catchings for the fifth most double-doubles ... (click for more)