Tennessee Comptroller’s Office says Fayette County audit shows ongoing problems

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FAYETTE COUNTY, Tenn. — Fayette County may be a small community, but the state of Tennessee said it has some big problems when it comes to its finances.

The state of Tennessee dropped a 200-plus-page report on Fayette County that found 14 different problems related to departments all across the county.

"We certainly consider any finding to be serious, and when you have 14 of them, that is significant, especially when Fayette County had 11 findings last year and three more this year," said John Dunn, the public information officer for the Tennessee Comptroller's Office.

Fayette County Mayor Skip Taylor knows the buck stops with him.

"I don't like seeing this. I don't like seeing any of this," said Taylor.

The audit cited the Mayor's Office for not having controls over its accounting procedures, not issuing purchase orders before items were bought and for spending more money than was approved in the budget.

"There wasn't any missing money. It was that it just wasn't accounted for properly," said Taylor. "Some revenue had come in that wasn't reported on our final report.  We reconciled it, but that doesn't excuse it. That was something that should have been caught."

Taylor blames some of it on new people in new positions.

It wasn't just his office. In five different instances, the Fayette County School System was found to have not properly reconciled cash accounts, made budget changes without approval and over spent by more than $160,000.

The Sheriff's Office was cited for using the same person to receive money, balance the checkbook and make deposits.

"These type of money responsibilities should really be spread out to more than one person so that one person can't get away with fraud," said Dunn.

In the Register of Deeds Office, the state found bank statements had not been promptly reconciled, and outstanding checks had not been listed since August 2014.

Register Sissy Dowdle, who is new to the office, called it an oversight that has been corrected.

"I didn't post the outstanding checks. Where I wrote the checks on the 6th, I didn't think they were outstanding. It's just a technicality," said Dowdle.

The Comptroller's Office said there have been problems in Fayette County before. In fact, this year's audit said Fayette County failed to correct the findings in the prior year's report.

While most counties average five or six findings, Fayette County and its different departments had 11 in both 2014 and 2013 and 16 in 2012.

The state said for three consecutive years, Fayette County failed to make recommended financial changes.

"It's really time for Fayette County leaders to take these findings seriously and do what's needed to be done to correct these issues," said Dunn.

It affects the bottom line, including terms on loans. The mayor said with new software and more training, things are getting better.

"I gotta make sure these books are correct so there is confidence in what we are doing," said Taylor.

Fayette County residents expect as much.

"I think they should do what they promised to do and be more careful with the money," said long time Fayette County resident Audrey Sanders.

The state also found problems in the Fayette County Trustee's office, including the practice of issuing checks from a school fund  that exceeded available cash to the tune of  $173,513.